A 62-year-old Florida man was charged with murder this week after police say he admitted to fatally shooting his wife outside her nursing home, at her request, as a way to save her from her deteriorating mental condition.
Stephen Kruspe faces a first-degree murder charge in the Monday killing of his 61-year-old wife, Pamela Kruspe, who authorities say had dementia.
The two had been married for 42 years before she was killed by a gunshot to the chest, according to a police report obtained by PEOPLE.
The couple reportedly had three children.
Stephen, who has yet to enter a plea, is being held in Palm Beach County Jail in Florida. A court hearing is scheduled for April 26. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.
According to police, Stephen called 911 on Monday night to say that he had just shot his wife outside the Parkside Inn Assisted Living Facility, where she’d been a patient since January. Responding officers found her dead behind the facility, in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Stephen said he stayed on the phone until law enforcement arrived and complied with their orders to lie on the ground, according to the police report.
A weapon was nearby, according to the report: “On the back patio railing of the facility was a .45-caliber handgun. The gun was locked in the open position and a gun magazine was next to the gun with bullets inside it.”
Stephen told investigators his wife asked him to end her life, the police report states. “I want you to kill me,” he said she told him.
He said that her “mental health [had] been getting worse and that Pamela had stated to him several times in the past and present that she wanted to die and that she wanted him to kill her.”
Her condition had left him “broken-hearted,” Stephen said, and he “was willing to sacrifice anything to get her where she wanted to be,” according to the report. He said he’d been considering her request for several days,
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Authorities say that on Monday Stephen checked his wife out of her facility, which cares for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, about an hour before police arrived.
According to police, he signed her back in upon their return, walked to his car to retrieve his gun - and then shot her as she looked at him, with a gun he purchased last year.
Pamela smiled as she fell to the ground, her husband said, according to the police report. He hugged and kissed her after pulling the trigger, the report states.
Stephen told police that the moments after his wife’s death were “surreal” and he hoped she was at peace, according to the report.
A Mercy Killing’?
One of Pamela’s children declined to comment to the Sun Sentinel, and PEOPLE could not immediately reach the family.
Jaclyn Tittsworth, a friend and neighbor of the couple, says Stephen and Pamela were inseparable.
“I saw them always together,” Tittsworth tells PEOPLE. “When you saw one, the other one was not far behind.”
“They did everything together,” she says. “They road their bikes together, and when she was training for the marathon he was with her. When she was in her right state of mind you could tell they truly loved each other.”
Tittsworth says Stephen was at his wife’s nursing home “all day”: “He was there every day. It is very sad.”
She believes Stephen was following through on his wife’s wishes.
“I feel like it was a mercy killing,” she says. “My husband and I knew them well and we knew it was for her. He did it for her.”
“He was seeing his wife change before his eyes,” she explains. “He wasn’t the same person either, because of the sadness he felt seeing her in that condition.
“He wasn’t sleeping, knowing he would never know her again. Every time he spoke to us, he said she was getting worse.”