- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A man dying of throat cancer fatally shot his wife in a planned murder-suicide that went awry, not a mercy killing, authorities said Friday.

Police initially considered it a possible mercy killing, but they determined Catherine Willett, 79, didn’t have any significant health problems before her 79-year-old husband, Phillip Willett, shot her about 8:25 p.m. Thursday.

Phillip Willett also tried to shoot himself, but the gun jammed. Police found the weapon still in that condition when they arrived to find his wife dead on the floor of a single gunshot wound to the head.

The couple shared a home with Catherine Willett’s two elderly sisters, who told police all three women heard Phillip Willett “banging around” in an upstairs bedroom Thursday evening. When Catherine Willett went to check on her husband, one of her sisters heard the couple arguing.

The sister heard Catherine Willett saying, “Don’t do that” and “Why are you doing this?” and, finally, “Please, Phil, I love you,” according to a criminal complaint charging him with criminal homicide.

Phillip Willett was then overheard saying, “I am in so much pain” and “I don’t want to live anymore” before shooting his wife as he sat on a bed, police said. The sisters were not injured.

“It looks like he knew that he was close to death and he made the decision to take her with him,” police Lt. Kevin Kraus said.

Police charged Phillip Willett with one count of criminal homicide and planned to question him after he was briefly taken to West Penn Hospital after the shooting.

But police didn’t question Willett due to his “deteriorating medical condition” and the Allegheny County Jail would not accept him as an inmate because of his illness, police said in a statement. He instead was transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital under police guard.

“He is not able to be arraigned at this time. He is suffering from a terminal illness,” police said in a press release Friday. “His wife was not sick.”

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