An Alameda, California, man who turned himself in and presented police with evidence that he killed his wife in what he describes as a mercy killing has been charged with murder.
Jerry Canfield, 72, went to police on Oct. 26 to report that he shot his wife, Joann Canfield, also 72, in the head to end her life at her request.
"He was very forthcoming and said he had planned it," Alameda police Lt. Jill Ottaviano said.
They had been married for 37 years, and he killed her to fulfill an agreement that he would end her life if she was "ill to the point of being in constant pain," according to the Oakland Tribune.
Alameda police Officer Alan Kuboyama said in a probable cause statement that Jerry Canfield told police that he and his wife "had previously agreed that if she ever became ill to the point of being in
constant pain, he would kill her."
Canfield's lawyer said there is ample evidence supporting Canfield's claims, including medical documentation and a "dozen red roses" left by her bedside, the newspaper reported.
Kuboyama said when police went to the couple's home they found Joann Canfield in her bed with a gunshot wound to the head.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office charged Jerry Canfield on Tuesday with murder, as well as a clause alleging he caused his wife's death by discharging a firearm, and he was arraigned later that day.
Neighbor Rod Baker believes Joann may have suffered from dementia, and had been in declining health after suffering a fall in June.
"Never heard one unkind word," Baker said of the couple during an interview with NBC Bay Area. "They were always together. They took care of each other."
Police sergeant Rick Bradley said when Canfield turned himself in, he appeared “very emotional and very remorseful about the incident. He felt what he did was in his wife’s best interest.”
Canfield’s alleged confession comes amid renewed national debate on the right to die, sparked by the decision of Brittany Maynard, 29, to end her life after she was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. Maynard, who moved to Oregon from the Bay Area, went through with her decision on Saturday, Nov. 1.
Toni Broaddus, the California campaign director for the organization Compassion and Choices said situations like Canfield's "point to the need for good end-of-life care."
"One of the things we’ve learned from the Death With Dignity Law in Oregon state, which we’ve been keeping records on for 17 years, is that when you have a death with dignity law those end-of-life conversations actually increase," Broaddus said.
Canfield is in jail without bail. He is due back in court Nov. 14.
A police spokesperson said authorities would not discuss further details of the case.