October 21, 2014


Avon man, 90, gets four years for ‘mercy killing’ of his wife

Robert Shaw, 90, pleads guilty to suffocating his ill wife of 65 years in a “mercy killing.” At left is his attorney, Kenneth Lieux. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Robert Shaw, 90, pleads guilty to suffocating his ill wife of 65 years in a “mercy killing.” At left is his attorney, Kenneth Lieux. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — They were high school sweethearts married for 65 years.

They met in church as teenagers and eventually raised a family in Avon. Then, in 2008, Robert Shaw took a step his attorney says was purely out of love. He smothered his 84-year-old wife, Virginia, with a pillow or blanket.

He called 911 soon afterward and told police he killed his wife “to put her out of her misery” because she had been in and out of the hospital with various medical problems.

Virginia Shaw died Nov. 13, 2008, at the Shakespeare Lane home she shared with her husband. On Tuesday, more than five years later, Robert Shaw pleaded guilty to a felony charge in her death that will send the elderly man to prison for four years.

Shaw, 90, shuffled his way into a Lorain County Common Pleas courtroom Tuesday afternoon accompanied by his two daughters and a son-in-law. During the quick hearing before Judge Mark Betleski, the nonagenarian answered in quick responses of “yes, sir” to acknowledge he knew what he was doing by pleading guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter.

Originally indicted for murder, aggravated murder and felonious assault, a plea deal was reached with prosecutors to drop three of the four charges and have Shaw plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Robert Shaw will get four years in prison for killing his ailing wife.

Robert Shaw will get four years in prison for killing his ailing wife.

The four-year sentence also was agreed upon before Tuesday.

Betleski said Shaw would be eligible to apply for judicial release six months after he is formally sentenced. He could not speculate on whether Shaw would be released, but said his case was unusual.

“We don’t get too many defendants your age, and especially ones not involved in criminal activity in their past,” he said.

Shaw, who has had his own medical issues, has been free on bond while awaiting the outcome of the case. He will be formally sentenced at a later date.

Kenneth Lieux, Shaw’s attorney, said the situation has been hard on the family, but Shaw’s daughters have found peace.

“They are dealing with it the best way they can,” he said. “His daughters have been understanding and supportive of their dad from the beginning while recognizing they lost their mother. They have forgiven him.”

Lieux said “mercy killings” are crimes under Ohio law.

“They were real, true soul mates in every sense of the word,” he said about the Shaws. “They reached a point in life where they both had physical aliments and health problems — her more so than him. He made a decision he will have to live with. But it was difficult for him.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

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  • Jeff

    Really ?? He is 90 years old. He has suffered enough from having to watch his wife’s illness get worse thru the years before he took her life, I would want the same thing done for me. There is no way i want to lay there and suffer. He did the right thing for her no matter what happened to him.
    We need more Dr. Jacks in the world or a legal way of committing doctor assisted suicide.

  • Tim Francis

    I understand what he did. wrong yes. but at 90 sending him to prison. I think in this case maybe the governor can intervene,

  • justme78

    Bullshit. Now age plays a factor on rather or not you can take someone else’s life……. If you kill someone every bodies punishment should be the same. He’s not god. It wasn’t his decision. There shouldn’t even be laws. because obviously its different strokes for different folks……. Where’s all the judgmental people now……Just Another one off the streets….. This world is full of it. Period. I can almost guarantee had that of been my grandfather at 90. With no priors he would have been handed a 25 to life sentence….. As I said carry on…..

    • Jeff

      It’s not a natter of age…It would not matter to me ( IMO) if he was 30 yrs old and had a wife in a similar situation. Suffering is suffering. If that was your parents or wife, would you feel the same way? Would you have the GUTS to end their pain? Probably not from the sounds of it. You sound more like an unsympathetic coward who would want them to suffer. Please stop and think about how ignorant you sound ! Then ,Imagine….what if………

      • S.A.

        You’re right, it has nothing to do with age…Pay attention to the last couple of sentences of justme78′s comment…”I can almost guarantee had that of been my grandfather at 90. With no priors he would have been handed a 25 to life sentence…..” Nope, nothing to do with age (read between the lines and read previous comments if needed)

        • Jeff

          Do you know that as a fact?? i think not. If you actually read my post i said “It would not matter to me ( IMO) if he was 30 yrs old and had a wife in a similar situation.”. So to me age doesn’t matter. Read between the lines?? Is there something said that i didn’t see?

          • S.A.

            My post was sarcasm in reference to justme’s comment Jeff. Don’t be so jumpy. Yes, read between the lines or let me be blunt. Justme probably isn’t white considering they bring up race in every topic = why THEIR grandad would be serving 25- life.

          • Jeff

            Ok….I apologize…..

    • HankKwah

      There’s a little bit of a difference between hunting someone down and killing them because you’re angry with them, and smothering someone in their sleep at the age of 84 because they are very sick and miserable. As for your grandfather, it would largely depend on which category he was in.

    • jenny smith

      why would you almost guarantee your grandfather, same age and no priors would have got 25 to life?

    • Lori

      Well he is MY grandfather…so since you don’t know the whole story(only what the press reports)…or have been through the same situation…you should watch your comments. He is not some thug from the street.

  • mdr12372

    We need end of life laws. We treat animals better than the way we treat humans. there is a great documentary called How to Die in Oregon which addresses assisted suicide.

    • Simon Jester

      Hell, we treat death row inmates better than pets…

  • Nadine Owens Alloway

    I think it is a shame. He is 90. What is the point? He has suffered enough. What a sham our justice system is.

  • Chan

    I can only imagine how deep his love was for his wife. However it was illegal, I wonder if their was other options available to them such as hospice care where you aren’t necessarily getting treated but made comfortable so you aren’t in pain.

  • Otter

    justme78 is clearly trying very hard to start trouble, they have made remarks like “where are your racist comments now” on several stories.

  • grannyof6

    To justme78: If either one of us as a married couple for years and “soul mates”, which we are both agree we would want the same thing for each other. You nor I know what this couple talked about or all the circumstances surrounding his decision to do what he did. I would only pray to GOD that my spouse would put me out of my misery. Unless you’ve been there YOU can’t be the judge and jury on this case or any other. Have you heard “There’s a Reason” ( Romans 8:28)? Look it up as only He (GOD) knows the Reason. I hope this gentleman returns to his family soon or doesn’t even go to prison because that’s ridiculous. Kenny Lieux one of the best criminal attorney’s around should have fought for “time served” and probation for this man. Mr. Shaw is already living a “life” sentence in his own body and mind. He has suffered enough and will suffer until he joins his loving wife.

    • Jeff

      AMEN !!!

    • HankKwah

      I have a question for you since you cited God and Romans. I’m Catholic, so I want to see where your head’s at on this. Isn’t this still killing? I absolutely understand the reasoning behind it, but….? He still took her life. Would you consider this a “God understands” situation? Personally, I get where his head and heart was when he did this. But in the grand scheme of God, and the afterlife,…. Do you see where I’m going?

    • Kevin Jenkins

      He needs to be on the chain gang. What a disgrace.

      • Lori

        really at 90 years old…get real..its not a joke

      • Otter

        My only hope for you is that some day you have to watch someone you love slowly, and painfully disappear while you have to watch. News flash, it ain’t like it is the movies.

        • Kevin Jenkins

          News flash!!!!!!! You don’t murder them, you moron!!!!!!

          • Otter

            May I quote you?
            “Judge not lest you be judged”
            ” Why judge people, are you perfect”
            Does that just apply to people who cook meth, and accused rapists? If it makes you feel better about yourself to call me names, have at it.

  • luvmytoaster

    Maybe he would have been better off placing a gun in her frail hands and hoping to God that she would have the strength to squeeze the trigger……

  • justme78

    Absolutely not. If that’s the case. Let’s gather everyone up who are in the nursing homes. And lets just shoot them up. You live and then you die. Period. Honestly my mother died of cancer. Should I have just killed her before her time. Do you honestly think the judge would have given me 4 years? Right neither do I ….as I said, bullshit. Now carry on. I won’t reply again. Everyone has an opinion. That’s was mines. Enjoy the rest of your day folks. God bless you

  • Sis Delish

    Tough case. I hope his attorney gave him a Senior Discount.

    Taking 24/7 care at any age is demanding. Younger folks have hope of a recovery. At this guys age, that hope is realistically defeated, especially since he alone probably knew his wife’s wishes better than anyone. Regardless of his actions, the outcome would be the same–death.

    In an actuarial world, he may have saved Taxpayers the cost of Nursing Home Medicare expenses for his wife as would have been kept alive as long as possible. I’m certain this was a mitigating issue in his charges/sentencing.

  • ched

    What a awful story, and to see these awful comments…Shame on all of You!

  • jj

    I hope sentencing is delayed long enough that he passes at home instead.

    • Kevin Jenkins

      I hope he does 20 to life. Just like in shawshank redemption. They send you away for life, and thats what they take. The part that counts anyways.

      • Lori

        he is 90 dumbass…is he gonna live 20 years??? don’t think so. he is in his own self imposed prison in his mind and heart

  • Lauren

    Soooooo glad this horrible criminal is off the streets–what a joke of a justice system in this country. This man will likely die in prison and why? Because he loved his wife enough to end her life when all that was left for her was pain and misery. That is love and compassion. That is the same thing we do to our pets when all they have left is pain and misery. Prison for this man is a sick joke and an indication of how backwards this country still is in regards to death and death with dignity.

    • Kevin Jenkins

      The law is the law…. Your opinion means nothing and you are a joke.

      • Mandi

        You are a very silly little boy.