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Death pact? Ohio man charged in hospital shooting death of wife

August 08, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • John Wise, 66, is suspected in the mercy killing of his wife, who was shot at her bedside in the intensive care unit of Akron General Medical Center.
John Wise, 66, is suspected in the mercy killing of his wife, who was shot… (Summit County Sheriff Department )

An Ohio man facing a murder charge for shooting his sick wife is distraught over her death and at peace that she's no longer suffering, his attorney said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a friend of the man suggested to the Akron Beacon Journal that John Wise, 66, of Massillon, Ohio, and his wife, Barbara Wise, 65, may have reached a death pact as they grew older and began suffering from health problems.

Police say Wise fired a single gunshot at his wife Saturday as she lay in a hospital bed at Akron General Medical Center. He was still at her bedside when security arrived, and he was taken into custody without incident.

The case has made headlines across the country, in part because of Wise's confusion at his first court appearance but also because of the related end-of-life issues.

Wise's attorney, Paul Adamson, told the Los Angeles Times that this much is clear: Wise was "deeply in love" with his wife, and the couple were "deeply devoted to each other" after 45 years of marriage. The attorney said that after visiting with his client he believes that the evidence will prove that Wise was acting only out of love for his wife.

"He’s distraught," Adamson said. "But he’s also at peace to the extent that his wife is at peace. It’s been very emotional for him. Right now, he's grieving."

Adamson said the couple have a son, and that the son recently visited the father, who remains in custody.

"Father and son have made peace," Adamson said. While the son does not condone his father's actions, the attorney said, "the son is very supportive and he understands anything his father has ever done in those 45 years for his wife, has been done out of love, and this incident is no exception."

Police and prosecutors told The Times that, although the early stages of the investigation do not appear to suggest anything other than a mercy killing, they had little discretion other than to pursue murder charges against Wise.

"Regardless of intent or motive, we're bound by the fact that this is a homicide," said Craig Morgan, a deputy chief prosecutor for the Akron city attorney's office. Morgan said the Summit County Grand Jury is reviewing the case and will ultimately decide what charges, if any, to bring against Wise.

Wise is expected to return to court Aug. 22.

Initially, Wise was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder because Barbara Wise did not immediately die from the gunshot wound. That led to an unsettling moment when Wise appeared before a judge and asked, upon hearing the charge: "Is she not dead?"

Upon news of Barbara Wise's death, charges against Wise were upgraded to murder.

Meanwhile, Wise's friend told the Akron Beacon Journal that Wise took a taxi to the hospital Saturday -- a move the friend says suggests Wise was planning to take his own life after killing his wife.

“Now why do you think he did that?" the friend, Terry Henderson, told the newspaper. "He didn’t want to implicate anybody. I don’t think John ever intended to leave that hospital. He intended to shoot his wife, I believe, and shoot himself, but the gun jammed and because of his medical condition he couldn’t get the gun unjammed.”

Henderson said John Wise suffered from neuropathy, a condition causing nerve damage and numbness in the hands and feet.

Police, prosecutors and even Wise's own defense attorney have declined to discuss Barbara Wise's condition in detail. Morgan, the prosecutor, would say only that she had "very serious medical conditions."

Henderson, however, said Barbara Wise had recently suffered a triple cerebral aneurysm.

Adamson, the attorney, added: "Her condition was critical to say the least. There was a feeling she was never going to recover to any quality of life."


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