- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - An eastern Kentucky man who says he killed his wife to end her suffering has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Ernest “Chris” Chumbley pleaded guilty last month to a manslaughter charge that allowed him to avoid a murder trial. He has been in jail since the August 2013 shooting.

Chumbley called 911 minutes after shooting his wife, Virginia “Jenny” Chumbley, saying she was a cancer patient. He later said she had asked him to die.

Laurel County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said the 50-year-old Chumbley was sentenced Thursday in accordance with the plea agreement.

The shooting and Chumbley’s statements that it was a mercy killing came amid an ongoing national debate over right-to-die issues. Five states - Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and most recently California - have laws that give terminally ill patients an avenue to end their life.

Steele said family members disagreed about Jenny Chumbley’s wishes. Some said she was miserable and didn’t want to go on living.

“At the same time we had witnesses who were going to say she had intentions of going the next day and starting a new treatment plan, looking at a new treatment plan with doctors,” Steele said.

Jenny Chumbley was shot multiple times, and Chris Chumbley was also intoxicated that night, Steele said.

“Those things taken into consideration, and Mr. Chumbley’s mindset at the time, is what led us to a plea of 15 years on manslaughter,” Steele said.

Chumbley’s attorney, Conrad Cessna, said his client is ready to move to a state facility to begin his sentence. He has been in a county jail since the day of the shooting.

Cessna said the case was tough on everyone involved.

“It’s been a grueling experience to be honest,” Cessna said.

There have been two similar cases in recent years in which a husband claimed he shot his longtime wife to end her suffering.

Last year, 88-year-old William Dresser was cleared of a murder charge after shooting his wife of 68 years in her Nevada hospital bed after she had begged to die. 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. He is charged with murder.

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