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Husband charged with assisting wife's suicide in Land O'Lakes

LAND O'LAKES — The woman lay lifeless on a blanket in the back yard, with another blanket covering her body. Near her head were gauges and hoses that were connected to the air conditioner.

Teresa Baldwin, 54, was dead. Her husband, James, 56, was nowhere to be found Friday evening when family members arrived at the couple's daughter's home. Several hours later, Pasco sheriff's deputies found James Baldwin.

The former air conditioner repair man told them he and his wife both planned to commit suicide by inhaling Freon, a common refrigerant that is poisonous if ingested. He said he hooked up the hoses and gauges. He said he lay on the blanket with his wife and that she opened a valve on the hoses.

Now Baldwin, who was taken to an undisclosed hospital, faces a charge of assisted suicide and is being held in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Questions remain, such as whether Baldwin also inhaled the gas, where exactly he was found and what condition he was in when deputies found him. Nor was any possible motive for the suicides released.

Deputies, who would say only that Baldwin was found "near the home," remain tight-lipped about the case. Relatives declined to comment.

The Baldwins had moved somewhat recently from Kokomo, Ind., to their daughter's home on Laurel Ridge Drive, in the Oak Grove subdivision just north of the Pasco-Hillsborough county line. Neighbors had little information.

"It's sad," said Bill Donish, 67, who lives next door. "I saw him out walking around, and he'd always say hello."

Residents on Tally Ho Drive in Kokomo, where the Baldwins previously lived, said they didn't know the couple well.

Adding to the unusual nature of the case is the charge — entered in the jail log as "assisting in self-murder" — which is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

"It's extremely rare," said J. Larry Hart, a former state and federal prosecutor who is now a private attorney in New Port Richey. "You've heard of Dr. (Jack) Kevorkian. This is analogous."

Kevorkian, a Michigan pathologist, was nicknamed "Dr. Death" for his role in helping dozens of terminally ill people commit suicide. He was convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder for assisting in one patient's death and spent eight years in prison. He died June 3 at age 83 of natural causes.

Hart said a lot depends on the circumstances for a charge to hold up against Baldwin.

"His alleged participation is a factual question," he said. "It depends on how a jury views the facts."

Husband charged with assisting wife's suicide in Land O'Lakes 10/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2011 11:54pm]

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