BOYNTON BEACH — Sliding to the ground with a gunshot wound to the chest, a dying Pamela Kruspe smiled, her husband, Stephen Kruspe, told police.
He had fired the gun.
Suffering and in the grip of dementia, she asked him to, Stephen said.
The 62-year-old called 911, hugging his wife of 42 years as she laid behind Parkside Inn Assisted Living Facility, until, he said, he fell into a daze: “What the (expletive) have I done?
The Marine veteran, who has worked as the keeper of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse since 2010, later told Boynton Beach police the killing was an act of mercy. Dementia had slowly, relentlessly robbed Pamela, 61, a marathon runner and mother of three, of her life. She wanted to die, he said.
Charged with first-degree , Kruspe appeared before Beach County Judge Dina Keever-Agrama on Tuesday morning. A public defender argued that Kruspe, who has no criminal history, was a “perfect candidate” for release. Keever-Agrama disagreed “based on the serious nature of the charge.”
She ordered Kruspe to remain in the county jail without bond and to have no contact with any relatives — his own or his wife’s.
The staff at Parkside Inn near Woolbright Road and Interstate 95, told detectives Kruspe signed his wife out of the home at about 6 p.m. Monday. She was dead by 7:30 p.m. He signed her back in, records show, though it is unclear when.
Pamela Kruspe didn’t know how to use a phone anymore, her husband said. She repeatedly asked him to kill her, he said. She didn’t want to be “locked in a facility,” the arrest report states.
Kruspe told police he was “willing to sacrifice anything” to get his wife “to where she wanted to be.” He bought a gun about a year ago, he said, but kept it at the same yellow Lake Worth house with a white picket fence the couple had shared for the past two decades.
After several days of mulling over whether to help his wife die, Kruspe put the gun in his car.
On Monday, the couple walked out the side door of the memory-care home and into the parking lot. Kruspe grabbed the gun from his car and walked with his wife to the back of the building, where he killed her, records state.
He called 911 and stayed on the line with a dispatcher until police arrived. They found a .45 caliber handgun on the back patio railing of the home.
Mary Barnes, president and CEO of Alzheimer’s Community Care, said she knows of no similar killing in this area since 1985, when Roswell Gilbert fatally shot his wife in their Fort Lauderdale condominium. Emily Gilbert had Alzheimer’s.
Gilbert spent more than five years in prison before being granted clemency by then-Gov. Bob Martinez in 1990. But the case lived on, having prompted a national debate about elderly euthanasia.
In recent years, another issue linked to caring for a loved one with dementia — caregiver exhaustion — has emerged.
Barnes considers dementia a “family disease,” meaning it reaches far behind the patient with the progressive brain disease. “There is a survivor in this and that’s the caregiver and the family,” she said, emphasizing the importance of support for them, as well.
Barnes’ frustration seeped through the phone Tuesday as she discussed Pamela Kruspe’s death.
“This man, who did this, literally jumped in the coffin with her,” Barnes said. “We should have been able to help him.”
Staff writer Pat Beall contributed to this story.
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I cared for my wife by myself for years, she had MS, until she passed.
Hardest job, physically and most definitely emotionally. To watch the one you love slip away slowly over a five year period…devastating!