A terminally ill La Mesa woman living in a convalescent home was shot to death Sunday morning by her husband, who then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide, police said.
Grace McMullen, 84, who was placed in Community Convalescent Hospital in La Mesa three weeks ago, had been found to have an irreversible, terminal illness earlier this year, the couple's daughter said. She had been in pain for the past few days and had refused to eat anything during the past week.
At 9:40 a.m. Sunday, Stewart McMullen, 86, a retired San Diego city firefighter, shot his wife once in the head with a .22-caliber revolver, then did the same to himself, according to police. Both died about 20 minutes later at the scene, the San Diego County coroner's office said.
"It was an act of love," said their 65-year-old daughter, Shirley Lindsey.
Grace and Stewart McMullen would have been married 66 years in December and had lived in San Diego County since they were young, Lindsey said.
In February, Grace was found to be suffering from multi-infarct dementia, a neurological disorder affecting the brain, and her health had steadily declined since then, Lindsey said.
"She was just absolutely down to a skeleton. There was nothing left of her and there was no hope," she said.
Lindsey said she and her father placed her mother in the convalescent hospital just a few blocks from where each of them lived so they could make daily visits.
"Her condition became completely unmanageable. The last few days she was in pain. She only weighed 90 pounds, and when she would sit up in a wheelchair, she was just bone," Lindsey said.
Her mother had no control over her mental processes or physical movements, although she was often aware of what was going on around her and who was with her, Lindsey said.
A year ago, she had been in perfect condition and never required a doctor's attention, Lindsey said. Since February, however, she had to be hospitalized three times, her condition worsening each time.
"To have your mind go like that, you just almost have to live through it to understand how awful this is," Lindsey said.
"Yesterday, she was just grasping at my hand and saying, 'Shirley, you just have to help me, you have to help me, I can't stand this anymore.' That was the last time I saw her," said Lindsey, who visited her mother every day at lunchtime, while her father made visits in the morning and afternoon.
"If you would have known what she was putting up with and what he was putting up with, then you would understand why he did it," said Lindsey's husband, Carl.
"I didn't sleep all last night, just thinking of her grasping at me," Lindsey said.
"It was just an act of love," she said. "They had been married for 65 years, and he took care of her every minute of those years."