Man Facing ‘Mercy Killing’ Trial Commits Suicide


A 76-year-old retired Navy officer accused of murder in the “mercy killing” of his terminally ill wife has committed suicide, officials said Monday.

Thomas May was found dead of an apparent drug overdose Saturday in a motel room in Santa Maria, north of Santa Barbara. May had been scheduled to stand trial in May in the death of his wife, Hazel, 69, in October.

Three envelopes were found in May’s hotel room: one addressed to San Diego homicide detectives, one to his family, and one containing newspaper clippings about the case.

Hazel May, in advanced stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease, died of a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and sleeping pills.


Her husband of 48 years admitted giving her the pills, carrying her to their closed garage and placing her in the family car with its motor running. In an apparent attempt to simultaneously commit suicide himself, Thomas May sat in the car and passed out from the fumes.

After waking up 12 hours later, a weeping May called police and reported that he had just helped his wife commit suicide.

May, a retired Navy commander, was arrested and freed on $100,000 bail. His attorney argued in court that Hazel May, who had lost the ability to speak, had been begging her husband to help end her suffering.

One note she wrote to her husband said, in block letters: “Tom . . . help help . . . get dead.”


Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington ruled in January that May must stand trial and that California law does not condone mercy killings or assisted suicides.

The couple’s three grown children supported the district attorney’s decision to file criminal charges. They said their mother never told them that she wanted to die.

While being held in jail, May was placed on suicide watch. Prosecutors had asked for $1-million bail, fearing that May could kill himself before trial.