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His mother was killed out of mercy, son believes

As Eva Visco's son sees it, the man charged with killing her is no criminal.

She was in pain, unable to care for herself. She wanted to die, believes Mike Bono of Deltona, the dead woman's oldest son.

Leo Visco, 80, who fired a .22-caliber bullet into the right temple of his 74-year-old wife, should be set free, Bono said Wednesday.

"Why put him in jail? What's that serve? He loved my mother. He was a saint to that lady."

But Visco is in jail, charged with first-degree murder for what friends and family call a mercy killing at the couple's home on Tuesday.

Visco was to kill himself, too, in a suicide pact, he told an emergency dispatcher, but he couldn't follow through. Instead, after shooting her, he called 911 and begged for someone to help his wife.

Investigators initially believed Eva Visco was suffering from cancer, but an autopsy found no cancer or any other terminal illness, and she was taking no medication for a serious illness.

Mark NeJame, Leo Visco's lawyer, said the autopsy did not tell all.

"By every neighbor's account, she was in debilitating pain and crying out for help on a regular basis. Apparently she wasn't able to put on a pair of shoes for two years because of the pain she was living with," he said.

"A jury has the absolute power to forgive this," NeJame said. "It's a consideration under the law called a jury pardon. They have wide latitude to do that."

Lacking his walking stick and wearing a crumpled orange jumpsuit, Leo Visco shuffled into a courtroom Wednesday for an appearance, leaning on NeJame associate Denis Quintana.

On the way to the hearing, he learned for the first time that his wife of 24 years had died in a hospital, six hours after he shot her.

He seemed numb when he faced Circuit Judge Stasia Warren.

Did he have any questions? An ashen-faced Visco whispered, "No."

Warren ordered him held without bail. Visco walked back to his cell, where guards check on him around the clock under a suicide watch.

He never noticed five neighbors who quietly sat on the back row.

"He doesn't deserve to be there," neighbor and friend Florence Scafiddi said through sobs after the hearing.

Bono, Eva Visco's son from her first marriage, said the family saw warning signs.

"I saw her Christmas morning and she was very distraught," Bono said. "She cried and cried and cried."

She had been a strong woman who fled Nazi Germany. She lost her first husband 27 years ago, and she remarried when all her children were grown.

But in recent years her health failed. "She was nearly deaf and blind and bedridden," Bono said. Her bladder failed completely. Her knees gave out. Her circulation was poor. Her eyesight, hearing and other functions were fading.

"This year was so hard, it broke their spirits," Bono said.

_ The Associated Press contributed to this report.