Elderly man ends wife's life in mercy killing

SEAL BEACH, Calif. Roy Laird spent more than 70 years with his wife Clara. Three months ago he made the decision to place his lifelong love in a nursing home in Seal Beach. Clara, 86, suffered from dementia, according to the couple's daughter.

"His stress level was already through the roof," said Heather Yost, Senior Helpers Yorba Linda.

Yost owns Senior Helpers in Yorba Linda, which offers in-home care for seniors. Yost says many families that have loved ones suffering from dementia are under extreme pressure.

"It's extremely stressful," said Yost. "It's actually 50 times more stressful than caring for a family member that's going through the normal aging process."

Laird is suspected of shooting his wife in the head Sunday afternoon as she lay in her bed at the Country Villa Seal Beach Healthcare Center.

"The shot was immediate and she passed away immediately," said Seal Beach Police Sgt. Steve Bowles.

Police surrounded the home minutes after receiving a 911 call that a shot had been fired.

Police say they found Roy Laird, 88, in the room with his wife. They recovered the revolver allegedly used in the shooting. Laird is now behind bars in Santa Ana. His daughter visited him in jail.

"My dad loved my mom very much," said Kathy Palmateer, the Lairds' daughter. "They were getting ready to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in December. It was a mercy killing. She was very ill."

"I feel for the guy, but it's just not the way to do it, to walk in with a gun, said Kenneth Walker, whose mother lives at a nursing home.

Experts in senior care say family members need to ask for help early on, before the stress level builds too high.

"When you're placing someone in a home, it's really important to reach out, get into a support group, talk to your family and friends about how you're feeling because it's definitely an emotional time," said Heather Yost.

Laird was held on $1 million bail. He was expected in court Tuesday morning.

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