86-Year-Old Man Who Shot His Wife in the Head Only Gets Two Years Probation

George Sanders86-year-old George Sanders killed his sick wife. He shot her in the head, though she did not die right away (she died later in the hospital). All of these are facts. He never denied it and he never said otherwise. But  this case is not like other murder cases.

Of course, it does start with an arrest. Sanders was arrested last fall. But then the twist. He says his wife, Virginia, 81, begged him to kill her after developing gangrene in her foot following years of sickness. Yesterday, after emotional testimony from children who loved both their parents deeply, a judge agreed and sentenced the ailing octogenarian to probation only.

Initially charged with first-degree murder, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a deal with prosecutors, but still faced a sentence of up to 12 years. But it was his family's support in the courtroom that turned it all around. And his own testimony. See below for what he said when he testified:

Your honor, I met Ginger when she was 15 years old and I've loved her since she was 15 years old. I loved her when she was 81 years old. It was a blessing, and I was happy to take care of her. I am sorry for all the grief and pain and sorrow I've caused people.

I think my heart broke a little reading these words. This is true love. And it's also true that there is a time when love and compassion means helping someone make their own decisions about their own life.

His wife had lived for years with multiple sclerosis and, according to testimony, he brought her to every appointment, doted on her, and basically did everything he could to care for her. By all accounts, he was madly in love with his wife in a way that few couples can ever say is true. He did everything for her.

The idea that he should have to prove that in court or explain why his love led him to do this horrific act is pretty reprehensible. One family member after the other attested to this love. I have to imagine that the judge had never seen a case quite like it. In fact, Judge John Ditsworth said his decision to give him two years probation "tempers justice with mercy."

In this country, we do not allow people to die with dignity. We do not allow them to choose their own way to go. So we force people like Sanders to make impossible, painful decisions.

It is a complete and total tragedy, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. For all the pain the "murder" caused, I can't even imagine how a man who loves his wife and no longer wants to see her suffer would feel. If she wanted to die, he did the kind and loving thing by ending her suffering. And then he was punished for it.

It is truly shameful in this country that we don't allow people to make their own decisions about their lives. Sick people deserve that dignity, but we refuse to give it to them. 

My heart breaks for this man and his impossible decision. No matter what punishment he was given, I am certain nothing could top what he feels himself.

Do you think people ought to be able to choose the way they die?


Image via Maricopa County Sheriff's Office



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Katy Khan

He looks like a man who has lost everything. Such a sad story :(

nonmember avatar Leigh

This story is so heartbreaking. I am glad the judge had a heart.

Candace Jennings

My prayers are with this family, I just hope he can forgive himself.

Bonni... Bonnie1937

Yes, each of us knows when we have had enough.

Dignity becomes very important as we age. It's unfortunate when we bring another person into it.

It's a merciful deed to assist and the ultimate display of true love.

Luvmy... Luvmykids7

This is sick! Shooting someone in the head is not mercy or love. If she really wanted to die why didn't she kill herself? I find it so beyond pathetic that someone can kill a "loved one" call it mercy and everyone offers them pity. or congratulates them. There are many ill and disabled people in this world that want nothing more to live but are forced to live in fear. Doctors decide their lives are unworthy and  and put in place DNR  orders without request or consent, family sees them as a burden and now it seems the majority of society thinks their lives are worse than death. I have PPMS, I know all about pain and struggling with limited mobility and I also know the toll it takes on a person to hear daily how awful their life is, how killing someone like myself is considered mercy. If a depressed teen is offered suicide prevention and considered irrational why is a depressed ill, elderly or disabled person encouraged towards suicide? Why is it ok to kill an ill, elderly or disabled person but not your young healthy spouse or your depressed spouse or child?

Judith K Littles

I feel so sorry for him and for her. I do think that people should not have to linger and suffer, in America we allow animals more humane options,  for end of life issues, than we do people. 


nurse... nursemama88

@Lovemykids, you have a very good attitude and I commend you grately; however, I have heard people BEG for death. Most people do not want to die but there comes a time when a person has enough of suffering whether it be from pain, disability, or just even trying to catch their breath. Sometimes a DNR is a god send and most people sign their own without being coerced into it. Are there times that a family member has to make that decision? Absolutely but a DNR is not just a simple thing. I know that if I was elderly and in bad shape I would want a DNR. Sorry but I have been in more unsuccessful codes than successful...and most that I have seen revived passed not long after the fact. The last "successful" code I was apart of the patient died within 24 hours.

moons... moonshooby

@luvmykids, she had ms, it is completely possible that she was physically unable to end her own life. Not everyone wants to continue on in pain and misery as you have been free to choose to do. She was also advanced in age and if you are as bad off as you suggest perhaps you will feel the same way when you are that age.

Angela Nicole Parsons

I was in that same hospital he had shot his wife at, I had been suffering from the closest thing I could get without it being Pnemonia. Not that I know what the doctor meant, through the halls of the gently speaking nurses. While where I was I did not hear the gun shot so loudly but I was aware, was it right? Possibly only by someones morals. I've no doubt that man did what was asked of him, she was depressed? Why didn't she kill herself? She probably could not... I doubt it was the first time she asked him to do it. That man, look at him, that isn't a cold blooded killer and to understand his point of views you have to not think about the laws. The laws were put in place for a reason but this isn't the same thing. He didn't do it to be cruel, or because he wanted to. 

jenne... jennelise83

Since when can doctors put DNRs on people? Methinks someone is being over dramatic to try and prove their point.

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