DETROIT, AUG. 23 -- A 72-year-old California man has been charged with murder, accused of helping his 69-year-old wife commit suicide earlier this week in Michigan, authorities said today.
The couple flew from a Sacramento, Calif., suburb to Romulus, Mich., because news reports about a suicide machine used by retired physician Jack Kevorkian led them to believe that assisted suicides were legal in the state, said Derek Humphry, executive director of the Hemlock Society.
Conflicting legal precedents make it unclear whether assisted suicide is a crime in Michigan.
Virginia Lee "Ginger" Harper, 69, who was terminally ill with cancer, died Sunday in a motel room near Metro Airport in Romulus, near Detroit, after she swallowed unidentified pills and put a plastic bag over her head, Humphry said. Her husband, whom authorities identified as Bertram but who is known as Robert, and her daughter, Shanda McGrew, were at her side, he said.
Bertram Harper of Loomis, Calif., who was arraigned Wednesday in district court in Romulus on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, is being held in lieu or $25,000 bond in the Wayne County jail.
McGrew has not been charged with a crime but is named in the felony warrant against her father as an "unindicted coconspirator to murder," a court official said.
Kevorkian helped an Oregon woman kill herself June 4 with a machine that administered drugs intravenously. Neither Kevorkian nor that woman's husband, who was present when she died, have been charged with a crime.