Man to be sentenced in wife’s alleged mercy killing
Virginia Chumbley was asleep when she was shot to death with a handgun in her home by her Husband of 20 years who cried as he called 911.
“I just shot my wife,” Chris Chumbley told the Laurel County emergency operator. “Give me the police. I’m under arrest.”
He later told authorities the killing was an act of mercy: His wife of two decades, who everyone knew as Jenny, had asked to die because her cancer had spread.
Her body was swollen and her pain was immense. She had to use a wheelchair when she wasn’t bed-ridden and Chumbley has said he was honoring her wish.
Chumbley, 50, was charged with murder, but last month, prosecutors reached a deal that would allow him to plead guilty to manslaughter. He faces 15 years in prison when he is sentenced by a judge Thursday.
The August 2013 shooting renewed the debate over mercy killings and the right to die in a nation where five states -Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Montana and most recently California – have laws that allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs.
In Jenny Chumbley’s case, her husband and prosecutors disagreed over how long she had to live. He said she only had weeks, his lawyer said.
Chumbley’s brother, Tony Chumbley, said Chris and Jenny had watched Chris’ mother slowly die of lung cancer years before, and she told Chris she never wanted her suffering dragged out like that.
“I think Chris done it out of love for her,” said Tony Chumbley. “I think he would not have done it if she didn’t ask him to. If my wife got that sick and she asked me, I would hope I was man enough to do what Chris did.”
On the 911 call the night of the shooting, Chris Chumbley told the operator that his wife has cancer “all over” and had a doctor’s appointment the next day.
During the 16-minute call, he asked the operator if he could go see his wife’s body one last time.
The operator said no, and he complied.
Jenny Chumbley’s mother, Rita Smith, told media after a 2013 hearing that Jenny wanted chemotherapy and did not want to die.
There have been other recent cases of alleged mercy killings. Last year, 88-year-old William Dresser shot his wife of 68 years in her Nevada hospital bed after she had begged to die.
Dresser was later cleared after prosecutors determined it wasn’t malicious and Dresser was too old and sick to face prison.
A California case that’s still pending involves Jerry Canfield, who placed roses around his ailing wife of 37 years before shooting her in the head. The 72-year-old Canfield told police the two had agreed he would end her life if an illness left her in constant pain. He is charged with murder.
Right-to-die advocates say families should have more options.