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A tragic end to 70 years of marriage

Police say Roy Charles Laird, 88, fatally shot his 86-year-old wife at a nursing home. Their daughter says it was a 'mercy killing.'
Through seven decades of marriage, Roy Charles Laird was by his wife's side.

After Clara got sick and started showing signs of dementia, he refused to hire nursing aides to help care for her. He insisted on doing everything himself — from washing her laundry to cooking her meals.

He was there nearly every day, a pained witness to her steady decline over the last five years.

He was also there at the end, according to Seal Beach police, who say that on Sunday around noon, 88-year-old Roy killed 86-year-old Clara with a single gunshot to the head at her nursing home.

He was arrested on suspicion of murder for what some who know them see as an act of love.

"It was a mercy killing," said their daughter, Kathy Palmateer, 68.

About three months ago, he reluctantly agreed to put his wife in the Country Villa Health Care Center a nursing facility less than a mile from their home. By then, she was unable to feed herself, walk, sit up in a wheelchair or even recognize many of the people close to her, Palmateer said.

"Her mind was gone," Palmateer said.

Still, Roy would visit her three times a day, spoon-feeding her at each meal.

"He'd always kiss her goodbye and hold her hand," said Nancy Grijalva, a family friend. "He would never get mad at her and lose his patience.

"Whatever she asked of him, that's what he did," she said.

They married while both were in their teens and Roy was a student at UC Santa Barbara. He worked as an engineer for General Electric, and she stayed home with their two children. He was a devoted Little League supporter.

They lived in Palmdale until about 20 years ago, when they moved to Leisure World, a retirement community in Seal Beach. By several accounts, he was a generous neighbor, doing plumbing repairs for free. He and Clara were also devoted to their granddaughters, rarely missing their volleyball games.

Constance Moore, a neighbor at Leisure World, described Roy as "a very sweet man" who "was upset about his wife."

On Saturday, Roy was sick with a cold and let his daughter do the visiting. Palmateer said she noted a change in her mother: Normally talkative and fidgety, grouchy even, she had become quiet and calm.

The next morning, Roy was back to his duties.

He called his daughter to report that Clara had finished her entire breakfast of eggs, pancakes and fruit — a rare occurrence of late.

But he also said she still wasn't talking. He sounded matter-of-fact and mentioned nothing else out of the ordinary.

Around noon, a single gunshot echoed through the halls of the 198-bed nursing home. Police arrived a few minutes later and surrounded the building, calling in backup from the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and two neighboring police departments.

"We didn't know if we had a shooter or not," said Sgt. Steve Bowles of the Seal Beach Police Department.Inside, police found Clara dead in her bed.

Roy was in the hallway. When he saw the police, he followed them into Clara's room, Bowles said.

He took his gun, a .38-caliber revolver, out of his pocket and set it on a table.

Bowles described him as "calm" and "very somber."

He said it would be up to prosecutors this week to decide what charges to file. "It's just a tragedy all the way around," he said.

Palmateer said she was unaware that her father even owned a gun.

Palmateer recalled a few occasions in which her father had mentioned other men at Leisure World who had killed their sick wives and then themselves. But her father never left the impression that he planned to do something similar, she said.

"It's not real to me," she said, smoking a cigarette outside the Seal Beach Police Station Sunday night as she waited to see her father.

In a room inside the station, she met with him for half an hour or so.

"I just gave him a big hug and we talked," she said.

They discussed getting him a lawyer and figuring out how to get him his medications.

Roy's health has also been in decline. He had a quintuple bypass several years ago, and skin cancer.

Next month would have been the couple's 70th wedding anniversary.


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mercy-kill-20101122,0,1208279.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+latimes/mostviewed+(L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories)


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Added: Nov-22-2010 Occurred On: Nov-21-2010
By: Zipper10
In:
News, LiveLeaks
Tags: Murder, marriage, nursing home, shooting, mercy, killing, L.A. Ca.
Views: 9030 | Comments: 35 | Votes: 2 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • It's not my place to say anything about this being i only know what i have read, but i will say if anyone knew what was best for her i would guess it was the man she spent her adult life with day in and day out.
    I just hope he gets it all worked out with the law and then with his higher power.
    Good luck ole budy.And Rest In Peace dear elderly lady.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • one of the most beautiful story's ive ever read.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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    • SO what kind of hardcore stuff do you read?

      Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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    • Surely...lets looks at it with lucid eyes, not cow eyes. Life is tragic, and requires a bravery to face its elements. This man did this because his wife was no longer really alive, only making doctors rich. At the end of our lives not all of us will be healthy and clear minded....most of us will live long enough for our brains to rot away inside our heads. What then? Medical technology keeps us breathing for years, to what end? Profit.

      A beautiful story of a loving husband

      Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • I hope someone does this for me if I'm ever in the same position. When the quality of life is gone, then there is no more life, just biologic functioning.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • you wouldnt let a dog go throught such a shit termination of a life ( via dementia) why the hell do we force our old, ill, fellow humans to suffer, i get anything like that shit wrong withme im taking a header of a tall building, fuck painand suffering. the man did good, and at 80 odd years old i guess he had nothing to loose personaly, he shouldhave suffocated her,let her atleast have an open coffin without destoying her head.

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  • perfect example for the case of dr assisted suicide!

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • What is "tradgic" about this is that it wasn't allowed to happen after her mind first left her.

    Hats off to the man who was willing and able to love and care for someone for so long, and then also able to make good on his promises for quality of life, both for her and himself.

    As reasonable people, we know when someone does desire or should desire to remain alive. As reasonable people we also know when that time has passed.

    Anyone who says life is precious above /all/ else ne More..

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Come my time I'm just grabbing some 480v and I'm out with a Bang.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • I can understand the reasoning behind "Mercy killing" when a loved one succumbing to a terminal illness is suffering intense mental anguish or physical pain. Why would you allow your dearest a prolonged and utterly miserable end to their life ?
    If you were to witness an animal on the highway that had been crushed beyond hope, but was clearly still alive and aware....What would you do? Would you carry on your journey regardless or go to the boot of your car ?
    Anyway, after saying that More..

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Almost guaranteed he'll get the worst that our legal system has to offer. Poor guy, that was a very sad story. Wish him the best.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • If I'm on the jury, I acquit.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Comment of user 'BasilHoneycup' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Wow,, you try spoon feeding the woman for what'd they say - 5 years??
    Dress her, wash her and all that other stuff,,, man, I'd want to watch some TV not be a freakin' care giver... I'd cap her too !!!

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Hospital Beds are expensive.

    It's gonnah happen, might as well speed up the process!!

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • they should of held out for the death panels

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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    • Was thinking the same thing.

      I don't much agree with eugenics or state sponsored mercy killing, nor do I really agree with what this man did but I'm sure (with the story told) he wasn't a bad man nor did he do it out of malice. Would be very sad to see the one you loved your entire life slip away into a world of oblivion and just know in your heart what you feel you must do, I think that the pain he's gone through is more than any justice deemed appropriate could ever do to him now.

      Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Sad that he felt shooting her was the only avenue left but I wonder why he didn't take himself out with the second round.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Heart breaking.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Damn he put her down like a wounded animal.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • I don't care, send him to the chair!

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Haha... he fooled you all. That's just some Asian guy in a mask!

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • I would have shot the old bitch 50 years ago

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • LOL

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • Comment of user 'dmorgan0628' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • "...for richer or for poorer, through sickness and ill health...or till roy puts a .38 through ya skull..."

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • If he was in a moslimb cuntry he could have accused her of adultery and the she would ve got stoned to death saving him all the stress.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

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  • "mercy"?? married 70-years and he capped her.

    Posted Nov-22-2010 By 

    (-9) | Report