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Man charged with murder in 'mercy killing' of wife and sister

A Canyon Country man was charged Friday with murder in the deaths of his 68-year-old wife and 59-year-old sister, in what police have described as a possible "mercy killing."

Lance Anderson, 60, also faces special circumstance allegations of committing multiple murders and intentionally discharging a firearm with great bodily injury, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced.

He was expected to be arraigned Friday in a San Fernando courtroom. If convicted of the charges, prosecutors said Anderson faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

An investigation into the case is ongoing, but authorities allege Anderson fatally shot his ailing wife at their Canyon Country apartment, then took a cab to a North Hills nursing facility, where he fatally shot his near-comatose sister. Anderson then dropped the gun and patiently waited for officers to arrive, Los Angeles police said.

Both Anderson's wife, identified as Bertha Maxine Anderson, and his sister, Lisa Nave, died of a gunshot wound to the head, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said.

Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department said Wednesday that detectives were investigating the slayings as possible mercy killings.

"I use the term 'mercy killing' in terms of describing a killing here because I want people to understand that this man did not randomly walk into a hospital to commit this crime," Vernon said. "He knew his sister was there in a vegetative state."

Anderson's wife suffered from some type of dementia, and his sister had been in seriously ill and bedridden for five years after suffering a heart attack, at times being in a coma, neighbors and police said.

Anderson is being held without bail, prosecutors said.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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