SEAL BEACH (AP) — An 88-year-old man has been charged in the shooting death of his 86-year-old wife.

Clara Laird was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in her bed at a Southern California nursing home Sunday. Roy Laird, her husband of nearly seven decades, was found sitting next to her and arrested on suspicion of murder, police said.

KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore Reports

He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

The couple’s daughter told the Los Angeles Times the shooting a month before their 70th anniversary was “a mercy killing” by a husband who had long fed and bathed his wife as she suffered from dementia and decline.

Reports of gunshots at Country Villa Healthcare Center came at about noon, and within a few minutes officers arrived from the California Highway Patrol, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and three local police departments, Seal Beach police Sgt. Steve Bowles said.

A tactical team surrounded the facility and soon entered. Inside they found Clara Laird dead of a single gunshot wound to the head, and found her husband Roy Charles Laird in a nearby chair, Bowles said. Officers recovered a .38 caliber revolver from Roy Laird.

“It was in his pocket,” Bowles said, and added Laird gave no trouble to officers who arrested him.

Laird was being held at Seal Beach jail Sunday night.

The scene at the nursing home was “chaotic” on a weekend afternoon with many visitors in addition to patients and staff, Bowles said.

Bowles could offer no information on the motive or health of the couple, nor say whether any trouble had been reported between them.

The couple’s daughter, Kathy Palmateer, 68, told Times that Roy Laird had insisted on helping dress and feed his wife as dementia took hold.

He reluctantly agreed three months ago to check her into Country Villa — near their home in the retirement community of Leisure World — after she took a bad turn and was unable to walk, sit up in a wheelchair, feed herself or recognize many of those around her.

“Her mind was gone,” Palmateer told the Times as she waited outside the police station to see her father. “It was a mercy killing.”

Palmateer briefly met and talked to her father, the newspaper said, and discussed his getting a lawyer and getting his medications in jail, she said.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (15)
  1. Rich Pulin says:

    Our society is fully to blame for ALLOWING something like this to reach this point!

  2. alan hart says:

    First, a one million dollar bail is excessive as this man lives in a retirement home. Where is he going to go? Bail is to insure the court that you will show up for proceedings. It is not a punitive measure. Second, what does the state think they are going to do with him? If he lives long enough to stand trial, and is found guilty, he will be sent to a prison hospital so the state can care for him in his final years. Offer him a symbolic plea and put him on probation.

  3. ginny25 says:

    What this poor man must have gone through to make the decision he did is more punishment then any court could ever do to him. What the h*ll message does our judicial system think they delivering by putting a million dollar bail on this man? Big,bad, dangerous granfather….Yet we see these same courts placing much smaller bails on pedophiles, repeat offenders, and other accused murderers. There needs to be a change in this bail decision. Release him to his family and let them take care of him until a trial takes place. Let them grieve together not only for their lost loved one but the one who after all of those years together felt he didn’t have any other option.

    1. Big John says:

      well said & thank you for saying what many of us would like to say but do not have the words.

  4. Alex says:

    This man has been through Hell watching his wife get worse and worse through the years and he still was willing to sacrifice even more to ensure his wife of 70 years is finally at peace!!
    Give him a break………

  5. Me says:

    Leave him alone, he as gone thru enough already taking care of his wife. Leave him alone!

  6. Julian says:

    Another good reason for allowing doctor assisted suicide. When the quality of life becomes so poor and deplorable, then people should have the free choice of dying with dignity.

  7. gisele says:

    There is a clinic in Switzerland that will provide one with medication that will put one to “sleep”. This is the way I hope to go, if I become terminally ill.

  8. Jim says:

    He’s 88 years old, took care of his wife until no longer to. How many millions of Tax Payers Dollars are the going to spend on his case. Let him go and live out the rest of his life in peace, he’s been through enough.

  9. Terri says:

    I must say this is one of the first times I have seen most comments that ring the same as what I would write. This man may not have much time left himself, and we as a country should look at end of life planning. What kind of life was the wife having, it is heartbreaking to watch a loved one forget everyone and everything that was meaningful to them.

  10. old no 7 says:

    the laws need to change. this was not a murder! we put our beloved pets to sleep when they are suffering. we need to allow people to make a choice not to continue suffering by what ever means nessessary. leave this man and his family alone!

  11. BikeRider says:

    Very hard decision to make to do something like this. Unfortunately, he tried to play God. It doesn’t work that way. Only God should be the one to make the decision as to when we croak. I feel for him, I really do. But he still took a life. This will be a different kind of trial for sure. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

    1. old no 7 says:

      then why was God making her suffer? God gave man the ability to make his own decision. right or wrong. by your definition we should outlaw medical science and doctors. after all, they are playing God, too.

  12. Shirl says:

    This made me cry as I watched the report on TV. I think that anyone who ever watched their loving spouse suffer with a terminal illness, sees this was an ultimate act of unselfish love. He never gave a thought of what would happen to him. I don’t think he was trying to play God. I think he only knew that she was suffering . My prayers go out to him and his family.

  13. gisele says:

    If one wants to learn more about the swiss clinic and assisted suicide: google Dignitas Organization.

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