Monday, September 21, 2015

Kansas murder trial, defense claims it was assisted suicide (Day 5).

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last week I wrote about the first day of the Heskett murder trialthe second day of the trial, the third day of the trial, and the fourth day of the trial. This article concerns the fifth day of the Heskett murder trial in Eudora Kansas which focused on Heskett's defense.

The trial concerns the death of Vance Moulton (65), who was living with cerebral palsy. Ronald Eugene Heskett (49), who was Moulton's care-giver, was charged with first-degree murder, but he claims that the death was an assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is when someone assists the suicide death that is carried our by the person who died. It can be done in many ways. Euthanasia is a form of homicide (murder) that is done when one person directly and intentionally causes the death of another person.

The Lawrence Journal-World news reported last week that jurors listened to a police recording where Heskett admitted to causing Moulton's death by asphyxiation.

Ronald Heskett took the stand and spoke in his own defense. According to the Lawrence Journal-World news:
On Monday, Heskett told jurors about his friendship with Moulton, 66, indicating their closeness went further than a worker-client relationship. For example, Heskett said he’d visited Moulton at the hospital after kidney surgeries in the spring of 2014 without pay, and also cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for Moulton  
Heskett testified that Moulton’s outlook on life changed in the months leading up to his death. Heskett said Moulton grew increasingly concerned about his housing situation after an altercation between a former care attendant and his apartment manager. Moulton reportedly felt the manager had the care attendant fired, and Moulton had liked his care attendant. 
“When I first started working, (Moulton) was out and friendly,” Heskett said. “He was withdrawn after (the other care attendant) was terminated. 
In March and April 2014, Heskett said, Moulton had two surgeries on one of his kidneys. Moulton had previously had his other kidney removed, and Heskett said Moulton was worried he’d lose his remaining kidney as well. Heskett said this made Moulton “stressed” that he may lose his independence and have to live in a nursing home. 
“He worried about the dialysis machine if he lost a kidney,” Heskett said. “He knew he’d lose his ability to (figuratively) run around if he was on dialysis.” 
That’s about the time when Moulton began talking about having Heskett kill him, Heskett said. 
“He would tell me when I got in in the morning I might as well just shoot him in the head,” Heskett said. “Later in the day he’d say, ‘I wish you’d just shoot me.’” 
Heskett said he had mentioned the suicidal comments once to one of Moulton’s friends and another time to his Trinity In-Home Care supervisors. He also tried to have Moulton call a suicide hotline, but Heskett said he didn’t push the matter because he was afraid Moulton would stop his services if he did. 
“If I got a therapist for him, he was going to have Trinity quit providing care workers,” Heskett said. “He thought that if somebody would come in and talk to him, the next step would be he’d get shipped off to a nursing home.”
Vance Moulton with case worker.
According to the Lawrence Journal-World news occupational therapist Megan Roelofs also testified today. She said:

... independent living was important to Moulton and that he was unhappy living at his apartment complex. She said she worked with Moulton once or twice a week beginning when Moulton was released from a brief stay at a nursing home in early 2013. 
“Van was bummed out and depressed about his situation,” Roelofs said. “(Moulton) never wanted to do anything that might jeopardize his independent living and being released into a nursing home.” 
Roelofs said that she heard Moulton say things like, “I’m so mad” and “I’m sick of all this” in reference to his living situation. Roelofs said she had recently sought assistance from social workers to help him find a new place to live, but Heskett said the process didn’t move quickly enough to satisfy Moulton. 
Roelofs said that on one occasion Moulton was upset about housing issues when Heskett told her in front of Moulton that Moulton “was asking for a gun this morning.” But when Roelofs inquired further, she said that Moulton “shut it down” and “laughed it off.”
If the content in this article is causing you to have suicidal thoughts contact Your Life Counts.

Neighbor Helena Charron also testified Monday about Moulton’s attitude change in the months leading up to his death.
When she’d first met him in 2013, she said Moulton was charismatic and upbeat. But after his kidney hospitalizations, things changed, she testified. 
“After (his hospitalization), I wouldn’t see him out much. He was withdrawn and skinny,” Charron said. 
One time, Moulton told Charron, “I just don’t want to be here. I just want to die,” Charron said.

However former care attendant Ulysses Demby, testified that he didn’t believe Moulton was ever suicidal.
“I read in the paper that Vance had asked (Heskett) to help him commit suicide and God put it on my heart to call the police,” Demby said. “He showed no signs (of suicidal tendencies)."
Keith Slimmer, a friend and former college roommate of Moulton's, also testified that he did not think Moulton was suicidal.
“I have never known (Moulton) to be depressed,” Slimmer said. “He was very glad to be out of the nursing home and have an apartment of his own.”
I am interested in this story because Heskett says that the death was an assisted suicide. I am not stating that this didn't occur, but it is possible to cause death and claim assisted suicide as a defense. Testimony is scheduled to continue Tuesday.

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