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Double-Killing in Ormond Beach:
Not Murder-Suicide, But Mercy and Heroism

| May 23, 2014

Umberto Boccioni's 'State of Mind: Those Who Stay,' study (1911).

Umberto Boccioni’s ‘State of Mind: Those Who Stay,’ study (1911).

The Ormond Beach Police Department sent out this notice a little after 4 this morning. The subject line was “Shooting incident”:

“At 12:44 this morning, Ormond Beach Police responded to a 911 call at a residence at 4 Ribbon Falls Drive. The 911 caller stated that he just shot his wife, then added that she suffers from Alzheimer’s. The caller then hung up. Upon arrival, officers found a male deceased from a gunshot wound in the living room and a female deceased from a gunshot wound in the bedroom. The victim names are not being released at this time pending further investigation.”

pierre tristam flaglerlive editor's blogThe paragraph breaks. The release then adds the required but unnecessary line, though a police agency can’t be faulted for including it. It’s part of the routine: “OBPD Investigators and Crime Scene personnel are currently working to determine the series of events that led up to the shooting.” By events that led up to the shooting, police don’t—cannot—mean the years of struggle and inhumanity that led up to this final, humane act. They mean the moments that led to the man finally deciding to pick up a firearm and pull the trigger, twice. They mean the determination of pre-meditation. The ruling out of any other possibility. They mean to settle the case forensically, so the line-item in theirs and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting can be accurately tagged. They mean carrying out the required steps enabling them to call it a murder-suicide with a clear conscience, close the case and move on.

Of course it is neither murder nor even suicide. It is mercy and at most atonement, though any spouse of an Alzheimer’s victim has nothing to atone for, not even a killing. Especially not a killing. If anything, he (or she) may be owed canonization. Anyone condemned year after year to live with a victim of Alzheimer’s is by definition already sainted for knowing a hell worse than war, worse than any other illness.

The News-Journal later specified: John Poucher, who had called 911, was 89 and a World War II veteran. His wife Barbara was 86. They were found, Barbara in the bedroom, John in a recliner in the living room. The only crime is that the Pouchers were left to themselves, and to a gun, to end lives they had every right to end, if perhaps less primitively. But what choices did this veteran have? The crime is that we live in a society still so barbarically enthralled with superstitions and religious dogmas that prolonged torture at the end of life, even when that end may take years, as it does with Alzheimer’s, is considered more ethical than ending the indignity, either through assisted suicide or by granting a spouse the right to end his beloved’s life without the ridiculous possibility of punishment.  We’re all accomplices to that crime as long as we refuse to enact laws that make more room for mercy killings and see the act for what it is: an expression of courage and self-respect most of us are too cowardly to dare.

John Poucher had known war. He had been flown to Washington, D.C., as recently as 2011 to be honored along with other veterans, to be thanked, celebrated, called a hero. What was left of his wife’s life was in his hands, as was his. The shooting, that last moment on earth, was the most heroic act of his life.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here.

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29 Responses for “Double-Killing in Ormond Beach:
Not Murder-Suicide, But Mercy and Heroism”

  1. Jon Hardison says:

    What a horrible, horrible story. Even if no one realizes it, your experience with Alzheimer’s is evident. I think its important to stay connected to the pain and passion of those that support friends and relatives with Alzheimer’s AND concern for the great potential for unintended consequences that would surely come with such legislation. Obviously the best solution is still to cure Alzheimer’s and learn what a reversal of the condition means to those affected, but baring that I agree. Something must be done and done quickly. Enough is enough. My 100 year old grandmother has been struggling with it for some time, but with her it’s just about loss of memories, the most recent first. She speaks, and is almost always in a good mood, sometimes realizing she doesn’t know something she should and laughing about it with us.

    I don’t know what the solution is. :-(

  2. A.S.F. says:

    There should be other help at hand for folks struggling with such issues besides a gun. Terribly, terribly sad…My heartfelt sympathies go out to any friends and family who might have to cope with the aftermath of this. So tragic!

  3. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    ASF is correct, there should be other options besides a gun, but there currently are not. I have to agree with the author (which is rare), the act of love this man showed last night, was heroic. That our society placed him in that situation by criminalizing humane assisted suicides, is disgraceful. The idea that I can take my dog to a vet to humanely end his life when he is agonizing pain and his quality of life has long passed, but cannot do the same for a human being, is absurd.

  4. Kendall says:

    Mercy and heroism, indeed. He loved his wife too much to let her continue suffering without dignity.

    It’s just so sad that he had to end his own heroic life in order to avoid punishment and ill placed judgement.

    May Mr. and Mrs. Poucher rest in peace and may their family find peace as well.

    We treat our pets with more end of life compassion than we treat our fellow human beings.


    Having cared for a parent with Alzheimer’s I understand where this sentiment comes from. I admit to more than once thinking of a way to put my father out of his misery. It is a horrible disease to live with and a horrible disease to have to contend with.

    But killing another person — as well as killing yourself — are still illegal. And committing an illegal act cannot be heroic, whatever the circumstances.

    • Max Awesomeness says:

      “But killing another person — as well as killing yourself — are still illegal. And committing an illegal act cannot be heroic, whatever the circumstances.”

      Uh, wrong. If someone leaps onto the tracks of a subway to pull another person off of them that is about to get crushed by an oncoming train, they are heroic regardless of the fact that they committed the crime of trespassing by leaping onto the tracks. You might want to rethink what heroism is, especially in light of the fact that many laws are as they are for literally no good reason.

  6. Compassion says:

    Euthanasia……………Its time America !!!

  7. Heads all empty and I don't care says:

    I think I saw a similar scene in a tragic Walking Dead episode. The family was infected, no hope, so they ended it in a child’s bedroom with a gun. When it was found, they kept Carl out of the room. There has to be a better way.

  8. Diana L says:

    Very sad. What kind of society do we want to be? My Mother In Law suffered from this disease and it is the most frightful, humiliating, devastating disease ever.

  9. NortonSmitty says:

    John & Barbara, together forever. We all should be so lucky to have someone who loves us this much

  10. Steve Wolfe says:

    Have to call me a potential future coward by this standard, Pierre. I am banking on an accepted alternative before having to face that. I can’t imagine that state of mind, to say farewell to the sweetest girl on earth, then inflict the most violent act she has ever known.

  11. 40YROLD Waitress says:

    It seems this was a chosen end of life by law enforcement. Law enforcement get the option of deciding which mercy killing is cool. Just like all the women that cheat with married men, get to decide when to create a living hell for the wife. I think we should euthanize cheaters that ruin marriages as well, because they obviously suffer from some illness that makes them useless to society. That’s what were talking about here right!? Someone who isn’t right in their mind anymore, so let’s put them down so they don’t screw up the lives of us who are in our right mind.

  12. tulip says:

    I think it is far more humane to help a hopelessly ill person die in comfort and peace and with loved ones nearby rather then have them suffer and be put through Hell as well as having their loved ones suffer the helpless feeling and frustration of not being able to make them better.

    People who have sick animals have them euthanized while they hold or sit next to them. Why should human beings be forced to suffer tortuous ailments, hitched up to machines, etc. until there bodies give out?

    Does anyone ever think about the fact that a lot of these people know what’s happening and that makes the illness even worse and they know that they will have to suffer it out for God knows how long? That’s a horrible way to spend the last years of one’s life.

  13. PJ says:

    The very truly sad part for thse folks is that they died in such a violent way because they had no other way to do it. So after suffering throughs perhaps years of struggle the only way out was a violent traumatic way rather than a warm loving time i a place where there could be peace like Hospice or even their home.

    When the quality of like is so degraded why do we allow our loved ones to live this way when they can quietly drift off into a deep sleep and simply never wake up. WHY??? Yes, I know it is against the law yes I know…..PJ

  14. Shamada says:

    There is a better option, it’s called Hospice. There is a gap in the current healthcare system where families like this are falling through. More physicians should identify caregiver stress and help people struggling like this man was. There are services out there that can help. In a different scenario, Hospice could have helped this man and women by providing end of life care for the woman and grief support and counseling for her spouse. My thoughts reside with the extended family who now have to live with unanswered questions and guilt that comes with this kind of loss.

    • Max Awesomeness says:

      Hospice can definitely grant someone a more dignified death, but it does nothing to prevent prolonged suffering. If someone is eaten up with cancer and in incredible pain every hour of the day but too “healthy” to die without assistance, hospice isn’t really an option.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think hospice care is amazing, but there really does need to be an option for someone whose agony is being prolonged simply because of the fact that euthanasia is considered wrong in most of the US.

      If we could convince the healthcare industry that they could make more money off of euthanasia than off of palliative care, it would be legal in every state.

  15. ryan says:

    I think it is disgraceful to call this the most heroic thing he ever did in his life. Killing Nazis was very heroic and honorable for this man. I am tired of everyone blaming society for everything. If we allow euthanasia for the suffering, there is nothing wrong with killing society’s most violent criminals, like serial killers, rapists, and pedophiles. I understand the whole point about assisted suicide for the terminally ill being legalized, but we also need to have a more efficient process for not keeping society’s worst evil alive, because it would make no sense.

  16. ken says:

    Euthanasia may be the most compassionate way to deal with Alzheimer patients.
    The question is who should be allowed to make the decision to euthanize?

    • tulip says:

      Ken, that’s a good question. Perhaps a committee of several doctors could evaluate the patient and then write up the permission to go to a hospice where patients can get what they need to die comfortably with no pain. This would also apply to patients with other terrible terminal illnesses other than Alheizemers as well.

  17. Anonymous says:

    the government is happy, two less social security checks to be given out which will be two more checks for our illegals.

  18. happening now says:

    Soylent Green was a strange movie, or so I thought so at the time. However, the way that one chose to end their life was a peaceful, kind, and compassionate way to finish the nightmare of disease. In the real world there aren’t many solutions to problems available to all. Think we should take another look at assisted life-ending as a crime………

  19. A.S.F. says:

    But, first, Conservatives have to get over their fears about “Death Panels.” You know, those terrible pushy liberal “Mandates” about living wills, informed decisions and hospice services that Sarah Palin warned us all about.

  20. Ziggie says:

    I don’t condone this, neither do I condemn.. I certainly understand the desperation Mr. Poucher was experiencing..unless one is in the “trenches” everyday with can not understand..this is so sad..

  21. Tom Poko says:

    I am shocked at these comments. Who on this earth has the right to decide who can live or die? Yes the situation was bad but that does not give any human the right to kill another. If you allow it in this case where do you draw the line?

  22. Lynn says:

    I’m not afraid of dying—-I’M AFRAID OF NOT DYING—-I HOPE SOMEONE IN MY FAMILY HAS THE GUTS TO PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY IF I CAN’T PULL THE TRIGGER MYSELF. I’ve taken care of several ill and elderly people and watched them live an empty life where there is no quality of life or dignity left. If you’ve ever watched the old 60’s movie Soylant Green–that’s the way I want to go–with a choice–peaceful–a chance to say my goodbyes and who cares if I’m recycled. I just cringe at the thought of being one of the walking dead.

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