Man held in nursing home slaying but questions remain

Police have arrested a 47-year-old man who is accused of murdering a man almost twice his age at the Tiffany Hall Nursing and Rehab Center in Port St. Lucie – but the motive behind the killing remains, at least to the public, unknown.

The suspect’s sister, who offered her assistance in the case, suggested money might have been a reason behind her accused brother’s murderous act. Authorities have not released details on what caused William Hawkins to allegedly smother to death Robert Morell on Jan. 5.

What has been released appears to be a sort of love triangle – at the center of which was Morell’s girlfriend, Angeline Bostinto, who was also in a relationship with Hawkins. Hawkins and Morell knew each other from before the nursing home, according to the arrest report, and Hawkins had logged several visits to the home prior to the murder.

In the days leading up to the murder, Bostinto later told investigators, she became uneasy with Hawkins. He had made multiple comments about how Bostinto could kill Morell by injecting Morell’s feeding tube with the insulin she gives her cat.

Bostinto relayed to investigators that she rejected Hawkins’ suggestions, but did have a “gut feeling” that something might happen.

Those comments led her to call the Tiffany Hall facility on Jan. 4, to invoke her power of attorney on Morell’s behest, and told the staff she did not want Hawkins being allowed for a visit. According to arrest records, Bostinto did not tell staff why and that, simply, she was in a rush.

Though a note was made in Morell’s file about the rejection of Hawkins as a visitor, it remains unclear in the arrest report how Hawkins got into Morell’s room. Policy, according to what the facility administrator told police, is that family has 24/7 access to the patient and checks in at the desk. Others, too, must be checked in. And those visiting after 8 p.m. must ring the doorbell and wait for staff to let them in.

According to the arrest report, those on staff that night did not recall allowing Hawkins in. Staff working that night were able to identify Hawkins in a photo lineup, which led investigators to pursue him as a suspect.

Following media coverage of the murder, Hawkins’ sister came forward and offered her help in getting Hawkins to talk about what happened. Hawkins was arrested on Jan. 6 in connection with other crimes and was in jail. She told investigators that, as his little sister, she could get him to open up.

“She went to tell me the reason she felt the suspect committed the murder had to do with money,” the investigator wrote in the report. “She said when her father died, they were supposed to get a large inheritance and they didn’t. (The sister) said when she read the articles about the murder, she immediately believed it had to do with the victim’s money.”

Her conversation with Hawkins was redacted fully from the arrest report and no summation was given.

Morell had been admitted into Tiffany Hall in September 2019 following the implantation of a feeding tube. He had used all of his 100-day benefit with Medicare and Bostinto had assumed the payment of keeping Morell there as a private patient until she was able to bring him home to their condo in Fort Pierce.

At the time of the murder, Port St. Lucie police said there was no danger to the public; it was considered an isolated incident.

On Jan. 6, the day after the murder, Hawkins was arrested on a charge of grand theft auto and trespassing. According to the report, he had stolen Bostinto’s car on Jan. 4 and crashed it into a canal on Jan. 5, where it was discovered around 7 a.m. On Jan. 6, the Sheriff’s Office responded to a suspicious persons call in Fort Pierce and discovered Hawkins sleeping on a couch inside a shed located on his aunt’s property.

Bostinto’s car was found a half-mile away from the shed, the report noted.

Hawkins told authorities that he was cold and needed a place to stay, so he broke into the shed. At that time, he was charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling, larceny/petit theft, vehicle theft, trespassing, and criminal mischief – property damage.

Since his arrest on those charges on Jan. 6, Hawkins has been held at the St. Lucie County jail. He now faces a first-degree premeditated murder charge.

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