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He Shot His Wife and Confessed -- Why Neighbors Are Coming to His Defense

"Whenever I'd see them, it restored my faith in married people."

Jerry Canfield reported to police that he killed his wife, but neighbors are defending the murder, saying it was a "mercy killing." (Image source: KTVU-TV)

A 72-year-old California man was arrested and charged with killing his wife, but his neighbors say the shooting shouldn't be considered murder but mercy.

"Whenever I'd see them, it restored my faith in married people," said Bridget Milet, a neighbor of Jerry Canfield who shot and killed his wife, Joann Canfield on Oct. 26, according to KTVU-TV. "They just loved each other."

Milet told the news station Joann Canfield had dementia, which had progressively gotten worse, and she recently returned to the couple's Alameda apartment from a stay in a nursing home.

Jerry Canfield reported to police that he killed his wife, but neighbors are defending the murder, saying it was a "mercy killing." (Image source: KTVU-TV) Jerry Canfield reported to police that he killed his wife, but neighbors are defending the murder, saying it was a "mercy killing." (Image source: KTVU-TV)

According a report filed last week, Jerry Canfield went to the Alameda Police Department to report that he had shot his wife in the head. KTVU reported that the authorities found the woman dead in bed with a dozen roses next to her.

"He said that he had shot his wife in the head," Alameda Sgt. Rick Bradley told the news station, noting that he was emotional during questioning. "He said he shot her to end her suffering."

Despite Jerry Canfield and those who knew the couple thinking the situation should be considered a "mercy killing," Bradley said it's still a homicide under the law.

"If there is such a thing as a mercy killing, this is definitely it. Because he was a very nice man and he loved his wife very, very much," Milet told KTVU.

Watch KTVU's report about the unusual case:

Jerry Canfield's attorney, assistant public defender Drew Steckler, told the Oakland Tribune that his client's actions was part of a "mutual promise" the couple had made to each other decades ago.

Jerry Canfield is currently being held in jail with his next scheduled hearing on Nov. 14.

This isn't the only so-called mercy killing within the week. In Waco, Texas, the 77-year-old husband of a 77-year-old leukemia patient in hospice was arrested for her murder earlier this week.

Waco police spokesman Steve Anderson told the Waco Tribune that the suspect “seeing her in so much pain and suffering, put her out of her misery.” The investigation into this case is ongoing.

The concept of "death with dignity" has also been a hot topic in the news after an Oregon woman with terminal cancer publicly proclaimed that she planned to commit suicide to end her suffering. Brittany Maynard for weeks had been advocating for other states to consider so-called right-to-die laws. The 29-year-old killed herself by taking a legal, lethal dose of prescription drugs over the weekend.

Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center, said she expects momentum from Maynard's story to spur legislators on both coasts to introduce aid-in-dying bills in 2015.

But such bills are not expected to be introduced in conservative states such as Wyoming.

State Rep. Elaine Harvey says people in Wyoming share her belief that "the big guy upstairs chooses when we go and when we stay."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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