After returning home to York County following his father's funeral, Adam Denny recalled he just wasn't satisfied.
"There's a lot of stuff that seems strange," said Adam Denny, 35, about the death of his father.
Charlie Denny died on July 15, 2011, while in the intensive-care unit at Altoona Regional. Altoona police and the Blair County District Attorney's office said this week Denny was murdered, and while no suspects have been named, Charlie Denny's widow, Mary Ann Denny, 52, along with her daughter and Charlie Denny's step-daughter Carla Shirokey, 29, have been questioned and said they're under suspicion.
Charlie Denny's children to his first wife, along with his sisters, said this week they're also suspicious.
Adam Denny, Charlie Denny's youngest son from his first marriage, said his 64-year-old father told his doctor that Mary Ann Denny was trying to kill him during his last stay in the hospital.
Adam's two older brothers shared his suspicions, he said, and after he got home he set out to find out as much as he could about what had happened to his dad.
Adam Denny said the doctor told him the day before Charlie Denny died, when his stepmother was out of the room, that Charlie's condition didn't match with his overall health.
"I remember what he said word for word, 'For him to be in this shape, it's like someone gave him a lot of sedatives,'" Adam Denny recalled.
Blood was taken 24 hours before Charlie Denny died and again at the time of his death, his son said. Because no autopsy was ever done, those blood samples would end up providing the answer to at least one question - what killed his father?
Adam Denny said he got some information from Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross and Deputy Coroner Jeffrey Guyer, who handled the case, but because of federal health care privacy regulations in HIPPA, he couldn't talk to his father's doctor.
Charlie Denny's final blood sample was sent out for testing, and after coming back with a high number for Zoloft, the sample from 24 hours before his death was sent out for testing so investigators could compare the two numbers, Adam Denny said.
Adam Denny said in late July or early August his suspicions were so strong he called the police.
"Something just doesn't add up here," said Adam Denny, adding that he doesn't believe what happened to his father had anything to do with a hospital mix-up or mistake, as his stepmother has said.
He said he talked to his father each night he was in the hospital and noticed that by Wednesday night his speech was so slurred he could hardly talk. Before that, on Monday, he said his dad talked about getting out of the hospital so he could drive the Ford Mustang he had bought with some of the settlement money he had received that spring from his Vietnam service.
Still, Adam Denny said he can't say who killed his father, that he only has suspicions and hopes police can solve the mystery.
"You've got your hands tied," Adam Denny said. "You can't do a whole lot."
Charlie Denny's death has caused many sleepless nights for his sister, Geraldine West, 64, of Altoona. Only 13 months apart in age, the two were very close, she said, and she's prayed for some answers to what happened to her brother.
"He was a very soft-hearted, loving man," West said.
West said she's "not putting the blame on anyone" because that's the job of police.
"We were suspicious," West said, recalling that she became aware of what Charlie Denny told his doctor about his wife trying to kill him after her brother signed a consent form at the hospital allowing West to be involved in their discussions.
"What made me suspicious is when I went to the hospital, Mary said, 'I don't think he's coming home from the hospital this time," West said.
"Something happened in the hospital the day of the dialysis treatment," West speculated. Adam Denny also pointed out that the doctor had asked whether Mary Ann Denny had given anything to her husband during dialysis, when Charlie Denny was unconscious. Adam Denny said his stepmother said they were mints, something West thought strange given the fact her brother was in a coma.
"Something's not right," West said. "Some grapes in that vine are spoiled."
Charlie Denny served in Vietnam, said his sister Ethel Rhoades, 71, of Tyrone, pointing out her brother was wounded with shrapnel and feared dead when all but six of his platoon were killed. He earned medals for his service, including a Purple Heart, and "was a good guy."
He stayed with her for about 16 months several years ago when Mary Ann and he separated. Mary Ann Denny had filed for divorce and for a short time left Pennsylvania, so Charlie returned to his house, and ultimately the couple reconciled.
Rhoades said after the couple got back together and Mary moved back home, within months her brother's health began to "go down hill."
"Funny thing is the whole time he was here he had no [health] problems," Rhoades said. When Charlie Denny lived with her he was able to ride his beloved Harley-Davidson and "able to do anything," Rhoades said.
"Three or four months after moving in with her he started getting sick - really sick," she said. "We were always suspicious."
Rhoades said when she arrived at Altoona Regional and walked into Charlie's room, she walked out thinking she was mistaken.
"When I saw him in the hospital, I didn't even know him," Rhoades said. "I thought I had the wrong room."
Rhoades said it's sad because while she hasn't really talked to her former sister-in-law since her brother's death, she still cares about Mary Ann Denny's two youngest children and has always been cordial if she did run into her.
"I didn't care much for her," Rhoades said. "I'm not going to lie about it."
When asked if she thought Mary Ann Denny or Carla Shirokey played a role in her brother's murder, Rhoades said only there's a suspicion.
"I can't say she did because I don't know, but it seems funny," Rhoades said, adding that with Charlie's $7,200-per-month pension and disability income, there seemed to be some motive. "It would not surprise me if they did. It would be a convenience for them."
During a brief stay at Tyrone Hospital in late June, Charlie Denny made the comment he wouldn't likely be alive to see his daughter Hannah's next birthday in late July, Mary Ann Denny said this week.
Sitting in her modest Bald Eagle Avenue home last week, a sign above the arch between the living room reminding "Prayer changes things," Mary Ann Denny explained how her husband seemed to know he was dying in the weeks leading up to July 15.
"He said, 'If it's my time, I want to go,'" Mary Ann Denny remembered. She recalled seeing him that last day, how the two said "good morning, I love you," to each other, and she noticed he was trying to get out of his bed.
"I said, 'What are you doing? We don't want you to fall,'" she said. "And then he was sitting there and he made a motion like angel wings then laid back down and closed his eyes and never moved again."
Mary Denny said this week that the only thing she had given him at the hospital, because he had asked for some, was some Skittles and Diet Pepsi. She pointed out how police questioned her about whether she had meddled with Charlie Denny's neck port, put in for his dialysis, and who had been in the room during the stay.
Mary Ann Denny said while the scrutiny has been stressful and the questioning "very intimidating," she believes that everything happens for a reason. Had Charlie not fallen ill and died, she never would have met her new husband, Gene Galebach, and gotten married on Sept. 15, she said.
"I just want to get it cleared up and basically get on with our lives," Mary Ann Denny said of the suspicion surrounding her since her husband's death. "If I was going to kill my husband why would I have taken him to a hospital? I would have left him at home."
Mary Ann Denny said Charlie's family has quit speaking with her, and it's even caused a rift between her and one of her daughters. She voluntarily turned over her computer to police she said, and has freely talked to investigators. She said she's been keeping the investigation from her youngest daughter, Hannah, 10, but her 15-year-old son, Andrew, is aware and worried she'll be arrested.
"This will never go away," said Galebach, 49. "They could show up 10 years, 15 years or 25 years from now, knock on the door - 'We want to talk to you about Charlie's murder.'"
Mary Ann Denny said her mother told her she noticed nurses calling Charlie Denny by the wrong name and suggested if there was a drug in his system that wasn't supposed to be there, then it was a mix up and not murder.
"They found that drug in his system," Galebach said. "Who put it there?"
Mary Ann Denny said last week she kept a list of Charlie Denny's medications but said while she couldn't recall what drug the police told her had killed her late husband, she knew it wasn't one he was taking before going to the hospital.
"But the medication he supposedly overdosed on was not on this list so it was never in this house," Mary Ann Denny said.
Shirokey said she's blocked out most of her memory of her step-father's hospital stay and death, saying it was too painful.
She said although she was prescribed Zoloft, it was pill form as opposed to the uncommon liquid form she suggested would only be found in a hospital. "No one in the the family has ever had that in liquid form," she said, in reference to the syringe allegedly found in Charlie Denny's bed after his death.
"They're trying to accuse my mom and I of killing Charlie," Shirokey said Friday, pointing out that although she and her step-father didn't get along for most of the time he was married to her mother, in recent months the pair had become closer. "It's extremely stressful. I want this to be done, closed and over with."
Shirokey speculated her step-father died because of hospital negligence and pointed out he was given insulin without eating and then put through dialysis while at Altoona Regional and that the ruling of homicide was done to cover everything up.
"Homicide?" she scoffed. "Well give me proof. Prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that it wasn't the hospital's fault."
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.