Wiliam Hager told the authorities that he had killed his wife, Carolyn Hager, right, in her sleep, according to the sheriff’s department in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit St. Lucie County Sheriff William J. Hager, 86, said he had run out of options.
His wife, Carolyn Hager, 78, had been ill for the last 15 of the more than 50 years they were married. The cost of her medications had become so burdensome that they could no longer afford it, he said. So on Monday morning while she was sleeping, he shot her in the head, he told the deputy who came to their Florida home.
The killing in Port St. Lucie and Mr. Hager’s explanation were detailed in an arrest affidavit and by local news media. Mr. Hager was arrested and charged with first-degree premeditated murder. But the case appeared to also highlight the difficulties faced by older people who are retired or on fixed incomes and struggle to pay for their medicine when they are ill or in pain.
At the sheriff’s office, Mr. Hager told deputies that his wife had a “lot of illnesses and other ailments which required numerous medications,” which he “could no longer afford,” the affidavit said.
According to a study by the AARP, an advocacy group for people over 50, specialty drugs that treat complex, chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis come with huge price tags.
Deputies said that Ms. Hager had severe arthritis and other health issues, but they declined to name the drugs she needed, citing privacy laws, according to WPTV, a TV station in West Palm Beach. Records show the Hagers filed for bankruptcy in 2011, and Mr. Hager worked at Sears for a short time to try to pay for the medication, the station said.
When a deputy sheriff arrived at the Hagers’ house Monday afternoon, Mr. Hager told him, “I have bad news,” according to the affidavit. Ms. Hager’s body was propped up with pillows in a bed, covered with a blanket.
Mr. Hager said he had killed her at 7:30 a.m. while she was asleep, according to the affidavit. He placed the gun, a Colt .32 revolver, on a dresser, went into the kitchen of their home and drank coffee. He then called his daughters to tell them what he had done before calling 911 in the afternoon.
Mr. Hager apologized to deputies for not calling them earlier in the day but said he had wanted to let his children know what had happened first.
He said that his wife had told him in the past that she wanted to die, and that he had been thinking of killing her for several days because she was in pain, the affidavit said.
The couple had been married for more than 50 years, local news organizations said. It was not immediately clear if they had Medicare or any other insurance.
“He was perfectly clear on that he was going to be arrested and go to jail, but again, he felt that this is where it had gotten to him and this was his course of action,” Chief Deputy Garry Wilson of the sheriff’s department said, according to the Treasure Coast Newspapers. “He showed emotion and he was very clear that he was out of options in his mind.”
Mr. Hager has appeared before a circuit court judge by video from jail, but had not yet been entered a formal plea or been assigned a public defender, said Kara Odom, a court administrator.