Friday, February 27, 2015

Utah man, 75, pleads guilty in death of ailing wife The Salt Lake Tribune

A 75-year-old Roy man accused of killing his ailing wife — after he purportedly studied methods of assisted suicide — has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of attempted murder.

Dennis Vance Chamberlain was charged in Ogden's 2nd District Court with first-degree felony murder in the death of his wife, 70-year-old Jean Chamberlain, on Feb. 16, 2014.

On Thursday, Chamberlain pleaded guilty to attempted murder. As part of the plea deal, attorneys stipulated to a sentence of six years to life in prison, according to Deputy Weber County Benjamin Willoughby. The murder charge was punishable by a 15-years-to-life prison term.

Sentencing is set for April 16 before Judge Joseph Bean.

Before Jean Chamberlain died at her Roy home, prosecutors say her husband had amassed a small library of suspicious titles: "The Peaceful Pill Handbook," "The Final Exit" and "If You Go Into A Nursing Home, Will Your Spouse Go To The Poor House?"

The books and articles provided arguments for assisted suicide, warnings against nursing homes, and ways to kill a person without being caught — for instance, suffocation with a helium-filled bag. The techniques in the publications were punctuated with handwritten notes such as, "Excellent," "How to do it" and "Silence is your best protection."

At an August preliminary hearing, Cindy Hadley, Chamberlain's daughter, said her father told her that he had taken his dog for a walk one February day and returned to find his wife had died. He claimed to have performed CPR, but Hadley said her mother's body was reclined in her wheelchair at a height that would not allow CPR. Chamberlain said he had called his LDS bishop, a doctor, to come to the house and pronounce Jean Chamberlain dead, Hadley testified.

Hadley said the bishop later told Chamberlain's children that he had never been at the home on the night Jean Chamberlain passed away.

Hadley said her mother suffered a stroke about 20 years ago, and that her condition was worsening when she died. She testified that caring for her mother "was taking a toll, mentally and physically" on Chamberlain. Her mother wanted to go to a nursing home, Hadley said, but her father objected.