After Henry Hutchins and his longtime companion agreed to commit suicide, police said, he rammed their speeding Jeep into a trash trailer.
He was severely injured, and Carol Carter was left in critical condition. But they survived.
Seventeen months later, in January, Hutchins, 68, returned to his White Flint apartment and found Carter, 62, with a bag duct-taped over her head, her neck cut and a box cutter in her hand, authorities said.
Her suicide note read: “Too much pain. Crippled. Take care of our children. Love you forever.”
She had been depressed and in pain, and Hutchins thought she was gone, family and authorities said. When he realized that she was breathing, Hutchins stabbed her once in the chest with a large knife.
Montgomery County authorities originally charged Hutchins with murder. But on Thursday, Hutchins pleaded guilty to manslaughter as part of an agreement with prosecutors. He was ordered released from custody pending a July 16 sentencing hearing. Under guidelines, his potential sentence could be from four to nine years, although it’s unclear how long he will serve given the circumstances.
Assistant State’s Attorney Karla N. Smith told the court that Hutchins had “indicated he didn’t want her to suffer” and that “he did what he had to do.”
Relatives were concerned that Carter would try to take her own life, and a suicide crisis team had responded to her on an earlier occasion, Smith said.
Only scattered details are known about the sources of Carter’s deep anguish. Her daughter pointed to a long struggle with depression “related to the loss of a job she loved at Bloomingdale’s,” Smith said. Hutchins’s brother told authorities that Carter no longer wanted to leave the apartment after the shared suicide attempt.
“They were hurt bad,” a neighbor said. “They were in pain.”
On Thursday in Montgomery Circuit Court, Hutchins sat quietly, at one point smiling at his daughter and later wiping his eye with a tissue.
Judge Mary Beth McCormick walked him through the mechanics of his plea.
“You did kill your wife, Carol Carter?”
Then later, “Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?”
“Yes, your honor.”
Anne Arundel County authorities had also pulled back from more serious charges connected to the Jeep crash, which took place in Jessup.
In August 2010, Hutchins was behind the wheel of a 1994 Jeep Cherokee, with Carol Carter beside him, when he struck the trailer. At the time, Anne Arundel police said Hutchins told them that he did it on purpose. Hutchins told police that he and Carter had been together more than 15 years. Authorities gave differing accounts about whether they were legally married, but they referred to themselves as husband and wife.
At first, police charged Hutchins with attempted murder and assault. But a few days later, authorities said they had dropped those charges, concluding that “this case was not an attempted murder, but rather an attempted assisted suicide.”
Court records in Arlington County indicate that Hutchins pleaded guilty in 1992 to a charge of malicious wounding and was sentenced to 12 years, six of which were suspended.
Hutchins’s daughter, Tanya Hutchins, who is not Carter’s biological daughter, said the family continues to struggle with Carter’s death. “This has already been very hard on all of us as a family,” she said. “It’s going to take a long time to recover from. We lost a family member.”