Woman charged with murder for allegedly using a gait belt to strangle her 80-year-old mother


A Texas woman is behind bars after using an assistive device for the disabled to strangle and kill her octogenarian mom, authorities say.

Suzette Annette Kefauver, 59, stands accused of one count of murder over the recent death of Vivian Norwood Kefauver, 80, according to a Harris County criminal complaint obtained by Law&Crime.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office says the implement used to commit the murder was a gait belt — an over-the-counter product typically used to help a person with mobility issues move around, stand, or transfer to and from a bed to a wheelchair.

On Nov. 17, a deputy was dispatched to the Kefauver residence on Forest Knoll Drive in Houston. There, a neighbor was performing CPR on the victim, the 911 caller said. The deputy arrived to find EMS personnel attempting CPR — where a supervisor of the emergency medical team advised that Vivian Kefauver had “bruising and redness” on her “neck area,” the complaint says. The victim was then taken to a hospital, where she died.

Suzette Kefauver allegedly told a deputy her mother “was in the living room sitting on the couch drinking a Boost shake.”

Then, the daughter allegedly said, she left the room for roughly five to 10 minutes. When she got back, she found her mother “sitting on the floor leaning back on the sofa,” according to the complaint.

Suzette Kefauver allegedly said she did not know if her mother was still breathing.

Next, the sheriff’s office claims she made a telling statement.

“[T]he Defendant stated there was not an argument between [her mother] and her and she stated the bruises on [her mother’s] neck were not from abuse,” the complaint reads. “This comment was not in response to any questions.”

Suzette Kefauver appears in a booking photo

Suzette Kefauver appears in a booking photo. (Harris County Sheriff’s Office)

Suzette Kefauver allegedly told a deputy she had been taking care of her mother for roughly a year and that they were alone in the house with no formal caretakers involved.

Then, the accused woman allegedly went into detail about the incident that is believed to have resulted in her mother’s death.

“The Defendant stated she left the room to put towels away and when she returned, [her mother] was sitting on the floor with her legs out away from the sofa and leaning back on the sofa,” the complaint reads. “The Defendant stated she tried to pick her mother up by her ‘neck’ and put her back on the sofa. The Defendant stated she did this several times for several minutes and then tried to use the gaits belt to lift her up. The Defendant stated after several more attempts to lift her mother she realized she might not be breathing.”

After that, Suzette Kefauver allegedly said, she went to her neighbor for help. Then, the two tried to lift her mother — to no avail.

The neighbor confirmed some parts of the story — saying the two attempted to lift the dead woman onto the sofa with the belt but were unsuccessful. Eventually, the neighbor said, she convinced the daughter to call 911. But when the 911 dispatcher told her to perform CPR on her mother, Suzette Kefauver refused, the neighbor said, according to authorities. So, the neighbor performed CPR until emergency crews arrived.

Notably, the neighbor told police about an unprompted utterance she allegedly heard Suzette Kefauver make. According to the complaint, the neighbor said Suzette Kefauver volunteered that she did not hurt her “momma” and that the marks on her neck were not from “abuse.”

During a second police interview on Nov. 18, she was directly asked if she ever used the gait belt to try and lift her mother by the neck. She allegedly replied that she did not.

But the state claims that’s what happened to Vivian Kefauver.

“The state notes that a white ligature mark believed to be caused by a gait belt was observed in the front of the complainant’s neck,” a prosecutor told a judge on Tuesday, according to a courtroom report by Houston-based ABC affiliate KTRK.

Suzette Kefauver is detained on $1 million bond. She is next slated to appear in court on Monday.

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