Virginia Chumbley was asleep when she was shot to death with a handgun
in her home by her Husband of 20 years who cried as he called 911.
“I just shot my wife,” Chris Chumbley told the Laurel County emergency operator. “Give me the police. I’m under arrest.”
He later told authorities the killing was an act of mercy: His wife of
two decades, who everyone knew as Jenny, had asked to die because her
cancer had spread.
Her body was swollen and her pain was immense. She had to use a
wheelchair when she wasn’t bed-ridden and Chumbley has said he was
honoring her wish.
Chumbley, 50, was charged with murder, but last month, prosecutors
reached a deal that would allow him to plead guilty to manslaughter. He
faces 15 years in prison when he is sentenced by a judge Thursday.
The August 2013 shooting renewed the debate over mercy killings and the
right to die in a nation where five states -Oregon, Vermont, Washington,
Montana and most recently California – have laws that allow doctors to
prescribe life-ending drugs.
In Jenny Chumbley’s case, her husband and prosecutors disagreed over how
long she had to live. He said she only had weeks, his lawyer said.
Prosecutors believe it was longer than that.
Chumbley’s brother, Tony Chumbley, said Chris and Jenny had watched
Chris’ mother slowly die of lung cancer years before, and she told Chris
she never wanted her suffering dragged out like that.
“I think Chris done it out of love for her,” said Tony Chumbley. “I
think he would not have done it if she didn’t ask him to. If my wife got
that sick and she asked me, I would hope I was man enough to do what
On the 911 call the night of the shooting, Chris Chumbley told the
operator that his wife has cancer “all over” and had a doctor’s
appointment the next day.
During the 16-minute call, he asked the operator if he could go see his wife’s body one last time.
The operator said no, and he complied.
Jenny Chumbley’s mother, Rita Smith, told media after a 2013 hearing that Jenny wanted chemotherapy and did not want to die.
There have been other recent cases of alleged mercy killings. Last year,
88-year-old William Dresser shot his wife of 68 years in her Nevada
hospital bed after she had begged to die.
Dresser was later cleared after prosecutors determined it wasn’t malicious and Dresser was too old and sick to face prison.
A California case that’s still pending involves Jerry Canfield, who
placed roses around his ailing wife of 37 years before shooting her in
the head. The 72-year-old Canfield told police the two had agreed he
would end her life if an illness left her in constant pain. He is
charged with murder.