2021 | Police & Fire

92-year-old Kensington woman died by asphyxiation, police say

Authorities giving few details about circumstances surrounding murder charge

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A 92-year-old Kensington woman who was allegedly killed by her 26-year-old roommate died by asphyxiation, according to Montgomery County police.

Julia Birch is accused of killing Nancy Ann Frankel, a well-known sculptor, last week. Birch, who is charged with murder, told detectives that she suffocated Frankel, according to charging documents.

But police have released few other details about the circumstances leading up to her death or a possible motive.

In response to questions from Bethesda Beat seeking additional information about the killing, Officer Durham, who did not give a first name, of the Public Information Division of Montgomery County police wrote in an email that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled that asphyxiation was the cause of Frankel’s death.

Durham did not immediately respond to a follow-up email, and two other spokespeople for the department could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said he couldn’t answer questions about Frankel’s autopsy because the Maryland Public Information Act exempts death records from disclosure when they are under investigation.

Frankel’s son, Steven Frankel, told Bethesda Beat that Birch had been living with his mother since January and paying rent. The hope at the time, he said, was that his mother would have someone to keep her company in her old age.

Birch has been charged with one count of first-degree murder. She is due to appear in District Court on Aug. 27 for a preliminary hearing.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com