Husband, 86, Gets Probation in Wife's Mercy Killing

George Sanders says ailing wife begged him

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Mar 29, 2013 3:54 PM CDT

(Newser) – An 86-year-old man who carried out a mercy killing by shooting his ailing wife in the head was sentenced to probation today after an emotional hearing where family members tearfully spoke on his behalf. George Sanders could have faced more than 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter. The judge opted for probation. The World War II vet told authorities his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1969, and the couple moved from Washington state to the retirement community of Sun City outside Phoenix in the 1970s for the warm, dry climate.

Virginia Sanders, 81, had been diagnosed with gangrene on her foot just a few days before the shooting and was set to enter the hospital and then a nursing home. "It was just the last straw," Sanders told police. "She didn't want to go to that hospital ... start cutting her toes off." In a videotaped confession, Sanders said his wife begged him to kill her. "I said, `I can't do it honey,'" he told police. "She says, `Yes you can.'"

George Sanders, center, is joined by his attorney Janey Henze Cook, right, outside a Phoenix courtroom Friday.   (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)
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