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Wife Begged For Death, Defense Attorney Tells Jury

May 7, 1985

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A man fatally shot his wife of 51 years because she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, then calmly told police about it, witnesses testified in his murder trial Tuesday.

Defense lawyers say the killing by 75-year-old Roswell Gilbert was the compassionate act of a loving husband.

But prosecutor Kelly Hancock said it was first-degree murder because it was premeditated.

Gilbert is being tried on the first-degree murder charge in the March 4 death of his 73-year-old wife, Emily, who suffered from the degenerative brain disorder and other diseases.

Prosecutors say they won’t seek the death penalty, but Gilbert faces a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted.

In opening arguments, defense attorney Joe Varon said Mrs. Gilbert’s last words were, ‴I want to die. Please kill me.′ ″Emily had suffered so much she begged her friends to help her die,″ Varon said.

Gilbert shot his wife once, feared he botched the job, calmly relocated his 9 mm pistol and shot her again as she lay on a couch in the couple’s living room, Broward County police Detective Richard Scheff testified.

″He said he had thought of poisoning her but was afraid he’d botch the job,″ Scheff said.

Assistant Broward County Medical Examiner James Ongley said Mrs. Gilbert, who weighed 80 pounds, suffered from emphysema and osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease, besides Alzheimer’s disease.

After the prosecution rested its case, Circuit Judge Thomas Coker rejected a defense motion to dismiss the charge.

Mrs. Gilbert lived in constant pain, Varon said.

He said that while Gilbert, a retired engineer, awaited trial in jail, he asked police to post a note in his apartment building to explain his wife’s death to neighbors.

″I couldn’t allow my lovely lady of 51 years to descend into a hell of suffering and degradation,″ the note said.

″And that’s our defense,″ Varon told the jury in his opening arguments.

But Hancock said jurors should leave sympathy out of their decision.

Throughout the day, he called several officials as witness, including Ongley, a fingerprint expert and a crime-scene expert.

Varon said he expected to call at least four witnesses when he begins presenting his side to jurors Wednesday. The trial was expected to finish this week.

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