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Man Gets Probation for Killing His Ill Wife

Courts: Judge issues lenient two-year sentence, finding Earl Lindquist to be 'a remarkable person facing extremely tragic conditions.'


Calling it a tragic case that warrants leniency, a judge Thursday ordered a 67-year-old Thousand Oaks man to serve only two years' probation for fatally shooting his seriously ill wife.

Earl Lindquist, a retired civil engineer with no criminal record, had faced up to 11 years in state prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter two months ago.

Instead, he walked out of Ventura County Superior Court with his oldest son and daughter at his side.

"I'm relieved," he said, "and I think my wife is at peace."

The sentence--lighter than those typically imposed in petty theft or misdemeanor assault cases--was recommended by probation officials and supported by prosecutors.

Superior Court Judge Herbert Curtis said he believed it was the appropriate punishment, considering the 60-year-old victim's medical condition and the defendant's desire to end her suffering.

"I do feel you are a remarkable person facing extremely tragic conditions that I don't think any person should have to face," Curtis said. "This case has such extreme mitigation I'm going to follow the recommendation of probation."

Curtis also waived the payment of any restitution.

Outside the courtroom, Lindquist's adult children said they were relieved by the judge's decision.

"I've never seen a man love a woman as much as my father loved my mother," said 41-year-old Earl Lindquist III, the couple's oldest son. "He wanted to help her out of her pain. And it didn't seem like there was any other way out."

For years, Janet Lindquist suffered from a medical condition known as neuralgia, or nerve pain, that caused her unrelenting agony and a constant ringing in her head.

Family members say the condition worsened after she underwent surgery in November 1998.

The pain intensified, and Janet Lindquist needed constant care. Her husband of 43 years quit working. And she began to beg for help in ending her life.

"My mom was asking me to get cyanide for her," said the son, the oldest of four children and a mechanic who helped care for his mother.

Daughter Deborah Lindquist-Talbott said her mother wanted to take a fatal drug cocktail--60 phenobarbital pills and warm milk. But the daughter said she didn't know how or where to obtain the drugs.

"I felt so helpless," said Lindquist-Talbott, a 40-year-old accountant and Chatsworth resident. "I prayed for a miracle."

On Jan. 21, Earl Lindquist granted his wife's request. He shot her once in the head with a small handgun as she lay in bed at the couple's Arbor Lane condominium. Then he called police and admitted to the crime.

Authorities say Lindquist's statements were corroborated by his wife's medical records and her desire to end her life, which had been documented in her own writing.

Prosecutors concluded that the shooting was a clear case of voluntary manslaughter, or an intentional killing without malice.

In March, Lindquist pleaded guilty to that charge, telling Curtis he loved his wife and was prepared to accept the legal consequences for his actions.

Describing himself as deeply spiritual, he said he would ultimately face a higher authority.

Sitting next to his public defender in court Thursday, his dark suit hanging loose on his slender frame, Lindquist echoed those sentiments.

"I am very repentant for what I did," he said, "and am asking forgiveness from God on a daily basis."

Because state law sets no minimum sentence for voluntary manslaughter, Curtis had wide discretion in deciding how Lindquist should be punished.

During Thursday's hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Patricia Murphy agreed that probation was the appropriate sentence.

"This is an extremely unique case from our perspective," she said.

She told Curtis that while Lindquist had no legal justification to kill his wife, Janet Lindquist had clearly lost her will to live and wanted her husband to help her die. Murphy said those factors should be taken into consideration.

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said it is not unusual for a defendant in a mercy-killing case to get probation.

"This is true not just in the United States but in other countries as well," she said, citing recent cases in Canada and Scotland as well as California.

But Deputy Public Defender Howard Asher said the outcome of such cases largely depends on how prosecutors file them.

With Lindquist, he said, the district attorney showed compassion and recognized that the shooting followed a unique and tragic set of circumstances.

"The whole case is unusual to start with and sets the stage," Asher said. Those views carried over to the probation officials, who recommended the two-year sentence.

"They recommended the most lenient sentence I have ever seen in a criminal case," Asher said. "Mainly because they sat down and listened to Earl Lindquist tell his story of devotion and dedication, and the anguish he went through."


Times staff writer Steve Chawkins contributed to this report.

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