Oregon Man Who Killed Wife in Test of Assisted Suicide Law Indicted for Murder

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 11, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Oregon Man Who Killed Wife in Test of Assisted Suicide Law Indicted for Murder Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 11,

Salem, OR (LifeNews.com) — An Oregon man who killed his disabled wife in a test of the one-of-a-kind state law that allows assisted suicide there was indicted on a murder charge by a grand jury on Friday. John Roberts, 51, was arrested on February 2 after he called police to inform them that he killed his wife Virginia Roberts.

John Roberts says Virginia was afflicted with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease and he took her life to see if the state would allow him to get away with voluntary euthanasia, or so-called mercy killing.

However, court documents show Virginia had never been diagnosed with any terminal or life-threatening disease.

A doctor’s report showed Virginia in good health other than having carpal tunnel syndrome and indicated she was never diagnosed with ALS.

"We’d be remiss in doing our job if we didn’t do a thorough investigation, if we didn’t look at all the evidence and say ‘what is this telling us?’” Claudio Grandjean of the Gresham Police told KGW Channel 8 television. “The evidence will speak for itself."

Meanwhile, John’s brother Greg told the grand jury that John killed Virginia at her request.

"We told the truth about their devotion to each other,” he said. “We don’t know what to make of the indictment, a lot of it’s brand new to us and it’s very upsetting.”

But another brother, Scott, says John invented the story that Virginia suffered from cancer and court documents show police found a note indicating that John concocted the story to cover the murder of his wife because of financial problems and his cheating on Virginia. The note indicated John planned to kill his wife and then shoot himself in a murder-suicide pact.

That’s not how Greg Roberts has described what happened.

"There is a story that makes this not just a murder," Greg told the Oregonian newspaper when news of the killing first broke. "It is my firm belief that this was a pact between the two of them, that she asked him to do this."

"And part of the reason why they chose this method rather than going down the assisted suicide route was that she was so proud that she didn’t want to let herself get into the condition she would need to be in before they’d be allowed," Greg added.

The television station also indicated Virginia’s family, from Guatemala, expressed shock over the killing because they are Catholic and opposed to assisted suicide.

John Roberts alerted police to the killing and they found Virginia dead after a gunshot wound to the head. Roberts has an arraignment date set for February 12 at the Multnomah County Courthouse.

Wesley J. Smith, a bioethics watchdog and noted author and attorney, commented on the case and said this kind of case leads to the slippery slope from assisted suicide to euthanasia.

"This is the kind of case that led to the complete collapse of euthanasia guideline enforcement in the Netherlands," he said.

"This is the tide unleashed when we agree in law that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering," he added.

Smith predicted that Oregon wouldn’t allow Roberts to get off scot free and turn its assisted suicide law into one allowing euthanasia. At the same time, he said Roberts wouldn’t be punished severely.

‘If Mr. Roberts admits killing his wife for purposes of mercy at her request — he may be convicted of something like manslaughter, but will not be meaningfully punished," Smith explained.