From: The Advocate, Stamford, CT, US
March 31, 2003
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- An 89-year-old man will be charged with murder after telling police he smothered his 85-year-old wife in her nursing home bed last week to end her pain, authorities said Monday.
An arrest warrant was approved Monday charging Morris Meyer with murder, State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict and Police Lt. John Brenner said.
"I don't recall prosecuting anybody this age for murder or anything else that comes to mind," Benedict said.
It was not immediately clear when Meyer would be arrested. He was being evaluated by psychiatrists at John Dempsey Hospital, authorities said.
Marsha Morris, one of the couple's two daughters, decried the decision to charge her father.
"Not an 89-year-old man," she said. "He can hardly walk any more. It was an act of mercy."
"It's surreal, like it's someone else's family," she said.
Police said Meyer, who uses a wheelchair, calmly admitted to officers on March 24 that he had suffocated his wife at the Northbridge Health Care Center in Bridgeport. Cornelia Meyer had been suffering from a chronic illness and was in constant pain, police said.
"It was a fairly easy call based on his confession," Benedict said. "It's tragic. But regardless of the amount of pathos involved, our duty is to prosecute and enforce Connecticut's laws. This is clearly a violation of the murder statute."
Meyer, who was married to his wife for 63 years, told police that his wife had begged him to help her die so he made his way to her bed and held a pillow over her face until she had stopped breathing.
"There's evidence that suggests she had some suicidal tendencies and there were requests to her husband to help her succeed in that," Brenner said last week.
Morris said her parents were private people who were devoted to each other, "more than anyone could be."
"There were just a loving couple for 63 years," she said. "They just kept to themselves."
Morris said her father, a retired machinist at Sikorsky Aircraft, was never violent.
"He just keeps saying, 'Your mother is happy now," she said. "All he says is, 'She's happy, she's happy. We're all going through hell but she's happy."
Morris said she never saw her father cry until now.
"That's all he's doing now," she said. "He keeps crying."
Morris said her mother complained a few times about pain, but she could not say what her illness was.
When he is arrested, Meyer will be released on a promise to appear in court, Benedict and Brenner said.
An autopsy conducted last week determined the cause of death was smothering and the manner of death was homicide, according to the Chief State Medical Examiner's Office.
At Northbridge, the couple shared a room but slept in separate beds. The couple had been residents of the nursing home since November 2001, officials there said.
Deborah Schmidt, administrator at Northbridge, said the couple was devoted to one another and there were no indications Cornelia Meyer was suicidal. State officials were investigating the incident.
State Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, said last week she wants to renew the debate in the legislature over medically assisted suicide.
"What this man did was humane," she said. "Imagine how difficult it must have been for him to do that."
Marsha Morris said she tried to explain to her father what was happening, but she's not sure he fully understands.
"I think because of his age he didn't think anything would happen," she said.