Man Gets Probation For Killing Uncle
Jan. 07, 1986
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ A man who ended his terminally ill uncle's life with an overdose of drugs has been placed on probation for five years and fined $100 in a case the judge called ''a true mercy killing.''
Wallace Lambert Cooper, 46, pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter charges filed against him nine months after the Sept. 1, 1984, death of his uncle, Wallace Goulden, 81.
''No one condones taking a human life, but I must admit, this is a case with mitigating circumstances,'' Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Coleman Swart said before imposing the sentence.
''The sentence does not surprise me,'' said Susan Wondries, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case. ''I think it's a sad case and I don't think a jail term will make a significant difference'' in Cooper's future behavior.
Cooper faced a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.
Both Cooper and his attorney, Ron Bain, declined comment on the sentence.
Cooper, a licensed physician's assistant, worked for County-USC Medical Center and was helping relatives care for his bedridden uncle at the older man's Pasadena home, according to court documents.
Goulden had endured a series of heart attacks and suffered from kidney failure, fluid in the lungs and Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the small intestine.
Swart said he received letters from 12 of Cooper's friends, relatives and colleagues, praising the defendant's concern for his patients and devotion to his dying uncle, and read excerpts from a letter from Goulden's wife, Elma.
''Just prior to my husband's death, he was so ill, he could not eat or go to the bathroom or move by himself,'' Mrs. Goulden wrote. ''He suffered so much and he wished to die. When I quoted the 23rd Psalm to him, he would say, 'What are we waiting for? When can I go?'
''We all knew his life was about to end on this earth.''
She said her husband's doctor had said Goulden's heart was weak and that he could have died at any time.
Court records showed Cooper apparently injected his uncle with morphine and digoxin as relatives gathered around him.
''The most striking contrast between (Cooper) and the overwhelming majority of defendants that come before the court is this defendant was more concerned about the victim than he was about himself,'' said probation officer Gerald Magid in a report for the court.
''From (Cooper's) perception, the most important thing was to end the suffering of his beloved, terminally ill 81-year-old uncle,'' he wrote.