72-year-old Alameda man charged with murder in wife's 'mercy killing'

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ByVic Lee KGO logo
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Elderly man charged with murder in wife's 'mercy killing'
A 72-year-old Alameda man charged with murdering his wife, whose dementia had grown worse over the years, says it was a mercy killing to put her out of her pain.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- A 72-year-old Alameda man has been charged with murdering his wife. He says it was a mercy killing -- a promise he made to her to take her out of her pain.

Jerry Canfield is charged with murdering his wife Joann. They were married for 37 years. Their neighbors say they were very much in love.

"You know, you've heard of being in love? Well, they were that," said next door neighbor and friend Jose De Dios.

Neighbor Rod Baker added, "On a daily basis they were continuously together. Wherever he went, she went."

But Joann had developed dementia. And it was growing worse. De Dios knew the couple well.

"Jerry said, 'you know, she's seeing little demons. Demons are chasing her around the house,'" De Dios said. "Cause she had bruises from, like falling. So she was running and tripping."

Canfield had to place her in a nursing home.

"He'd be up at seven in the morning, out the door, spend the whole day with his wife at the facility," said De Dios. "He'd come home at 9:30, ten o' clock and he'd do this every day. Talk about love."

Two weeks ago, Jerry was finally able to bring Joann back home. That was Saturday, Oct. 25.

He wheeled her up the stairs to their apartment.

Neighbors say she was disoriented and unable to recognize anyone.

Jerry Canfield's lawyer says he promised Joann he would end her life if she just couldn't bear the pain anymore. On that Sunday, Oct. 26, he kept his word.

Canfield placed a dozen red roses by her bed and shot her in the head.

"My wife saw Jerry leave Sunday dressed up, very more so than normal. Got in his truck and drove away," said Baker.

Canfield drove to the police station and turned himself in.

De Dios once asked Canfield about his wife's deteriorating condition.

"I said, you know, 'how are you going to take care of her, what you doing?' He goes, 'we've made arrangements.' I had no idea it meant, you know, help her be out of her misery," said De Dios.

Baker added, "This might have been the last kind thing he could do for her. And I'm sure that's what it was. I just, nobody could ever convince me otherwise."

There are resources available for caregivers who may feel overwhelmed. The Family Caregiver Alliance works with people all over the country, and their representatives will visit your home to see how to help you best. You can call them at 415-434-3388. Or to visit their website, click here.