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D.A. Declines to Prosecute Man in Suicide of His Wife

December 19, 1985|TOM GREELEY | Times Staff Writer

Kenneth Lee Shadell will not face prosecution on charges that he helped his ailing wife of 43 years commit suicide by an overdose of drugs "because the only evidence available . . . is that Mrs. Shadell voluntarily took the pills herself," Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller said Wednesday in a letter to La Mesa police.

Shadell, 67, a retired geography professor, dialed the 911 emergency number Dec. 2 and told authorities, "I just helped my wife die," as Elizabeth Shadell, also 67, lay comatose and surrounded by empty bottles of the prescription drugs Valium and Atavan, in a back bedroom of the couple's Skyline Lane home.

When La Mesa police and paramedics arrived on the scene, they revived Mrs. Shadell's pulse and rushed her to Grossmont Hospital, where she died 10 days later without regaining consciousness. Shadell, who had cared for his bed-ridden wife since his retirement from Grossmont College in 1982, was arrested by La Mesa police on suspicion of attempted murder and jailed for three days. He was released on his own recognizance while the district attorney's office decided whether to file charges.

Mrs. Shadell had been partly paralyzed and unable to speak since suffering a stroke in March, and had been ill for several years with a severe asthmatic condition, which required frequent hospitalization.

Bob Boles, the prosecutor assigned to the Shadell case, said in an interview Wednesday that Shadell's statement to authorities could not be used against him "because there was no evidence to prove that he had committed a crime. There was no physical proof that he had aided in the suicide."

Miller's letter said Mrs. Shadell had become increasingly depressed in recent months, and that her husband "told the investigating officers that Mrs. Shadell had indicated on several occasions that she wished to commit suicide." It said she repeated the request to her husband again on Dec. 2. "They had discussed this type of situation between themselves years ago, and decided then . . . they would help each other do whatever was necessary," the letter said.

"Mr. Shadell finally decided to assist his wife. He wheeled her into the bedroom, where she removed the pills from the bottles and took them herself. He helped her into bed, and left the room, so he would not have to watch. When he thought she was dead, he called the police."

Boles said the district attorney's office had sought legal opinions from the state attorney general's office before making the decision not to prosecute Shadell.

"Since . . . it (does not) appear from our knowledge of the facts that such evidence (that Shadell helped his wife take the pills) exists," Miller's letter said, "we must conclude that Mr. Shadell's statements are not admissible in any criminal proceedings against him."

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