US NEWS Bulletins
Janauary 1 to 31, 2001
January 27, 2001; Seattle, WA: Son confesses to his mom's mercy killing
The confession of a caregiver that he killed his terminally ill mother last February has Kitsap County officials scrambling to investigate.
Accompanied by a sister and a friend, the 26-year-old man walked into police headquarters Wednesday to tell his story. When he was finished, he was jailed on suspicion of murder and bail was set at $200,000.
But the case is no slam dunk, said Port Orchard Police Sgt. Mark Duncan, who is supervising the investigation.
"Confessions like this, after so long a time, aren't usually enough (to bring charges against a person). Having said that, though, there is some evidence in this case. There are medical records and some witnesses," Duncan said. "Our job now is to verify the details."
Duncan identified the dead woman as Joanne L. Jetton, 55, who had been suffering from a terminal lung disease. Her care was being supervised by a hospice nurse attached to Harrison Home Health. She was being cared for daily at home by her son, whom the state paid to do it.
Gordon Schultz, a Department of Social and Health Services spokesman, said documents show that Jetton chose her son to be her caregiver and that he met the state's training requirements.
Coroner Greg Sandstrom said yesterday records show Jetton died at 11:25 p.m. Feb. 15. The records were stamped "NJ," which stands for "no jurisdiction," a designation meaning the death was not suspicious and would not require the coroner's attention, he said.
The son's confession has changed that status.
"Now that he's admitted it," Sandstrom said, "we're trying to do a follow-up. But there's not much to go on except for interviews and medical records."
Sandstrom said the body was cremated. "Even if she hadn't been - if she had been buried instead - the chance of collecting bodily fluids at this point would be impossible," he said.
Police would not reveal details of the son's confession, including how the woman was allegedly killed.
But, by yesterday, (Jan 26) the coroner had compiled what he described as "a 2-inch stack" of medical records and was expecting to deliver them to the office of Deputy Prosecutor Chris Casad who said he expects to complete his review of the case by Wednesday afternoon.
The suspect, who had been living in Arkansas, told Port Orchard police that he confessed first to his sister while here on a visit, and his sister urged him to contact police. "He was a paid health- home provider who was being paid by the state to take care of his mother. This wasn't just a visiting thing," Duncan said.
Duncan, who has been a Port Orchard officer for 17 years, also said the confession "isn't the first for Kitsap County, and probably won't be the last.
"Even if it were," he said, "that begs the greater national question that deals with how we care for the elderly and the sick, and what happens when they're about to die. Families do intercede. That we know. What we do about it is another question. Right now it's against the law."
Sandstrom said Kitsap County's system for tracking deaths requires that a notice of all deaths, not just suspicious ones, be filed through his office.
January 9, 2001; Detroit, Michigan: U.S. judge to hear Kevorkian bond request
Jack Kevorkian won a small victory after a federal judge agreed to review whether the imprisoned assisted-suicide advocate should be released on bond during his appeal.
Attorney Mayer Morganroth, who represents Kevorkian, said that U.S. District Judge Paul Borman has ordered the Michigan Department of Corrections to respond to Kevorkian's request for an appeal bond.
It is the first success for Kevorkian, who has been trying to gain his freedom from his 10 to 25 year prison sentence for second-degree murder.
Morganroth contends that Kevorkian's declining health and age are among the reasons his client should be released while the appeal is pending. Kevorkian is also recovering from broken ribs suffered in a fall at the prison.
Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski, who tried the case against Kevorkian, said nothing has changed that would warrant his release.
Former Oakland Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper, who heard the case, turned down requests for an appeal bond four times. Cooper now sits on the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court also turned down the appeal bond requests. But Morganroth said the higher courts made their rulings and never gave an explanation.
Kevorkian, 72, was convicted in the 1998 injection death of Thomas Youk, a Waterford Township man who had Lou Gehrig's disease. The death was videotaped, and a portion of it was played on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes.
Kevorkian's earliest parole date is May 2007. He is being held in low-medium security prison in Jackson.
The state attorney general will represent the Department of Corrections. The judge set a March 6 deadline for the response.
The Court of Appeals has not yet set Kevorkian's case for oral argument.
January 8, 2001; Deltona, FL: Elderly man who shot ailing wife under house arrest
Leo Visco walked out of jail with his son and his attorneys by his side Friday night (Jan 5) so the 80-year-old man can return to the home he and his wife once shared.
Shortly before 7 p.m., Visco was released from the Volusia County Branch Jail, where he has been held since the Dec. 26 shooting of his wife, Eva.
He choked back tears as he hugged his son and thanked him and his attorneys for their support. His attorneys would only allow him to say a few brief words before he was shuffled off to his Deltona home. He wasn't allowed to discuss the shooting.
"I'm fine," he said in quiet voice. "I'd just like to go home and rest and get things off my mind."
Visco told investigators that he shot his wife in the head with a .22-caliber pistol to end her pain.
Visco's son Leonard said he was grateful that his father was going home.
He said he plans to stay with his father for a few days to help him make the transition.
"I told him I loved him and just to relax," the younger Visco said of their encounter behind closed jail doors moments after his father was released. "It's just wonderful to have him home."
A judge granted Visco, charged with first-degree murder, bond at a hearing Thursday.
Typically, first-degree murder suspects do not get bond because they are considered dangerous. The judge determined that Visco doesn't pose a threat to anyone.
Under the judge's order, Visco is not allowed to leave his home unless he gets approval from the court.
At the hearing Thursday, Circuit Court Judge C. McFerrin Smith allowed Visco to use the equity in his home to post bond directly with the county rather than use the more traditional route of hiring a bail-bond company.
That order caused a great deal of confusion on Friday, leaving Visco in jail for most of the day.
The county attorney was concerned that accepting the deed as collateral would make the county financially responsible for the mortgage. Visco was released after Smith issued a revised order that clarified the county's role.
"The county attorney's office resisted it," Visco's attorney Mark NeJame said of the original order.
"They said they could not accept paperwork on the property."
NeJame said he will spend the coming days speaking with Assistant State Attorney Raul Zambrano to encourage him not to follow through with the first-degree murder charge.
NeJame said Visco shouldn't be punished for the shooting.
"The public opinion coming out is that this man should not be prosecuted," he said.
Visco spent much of his time at the jail alone in a 9-foot-by-7- foot cell in the ward where ailing inmates are kept. The cell doors opened at 5 a.m., allowing him to mingle with other inmates until the cell doors shut at 11 p.m. He was able to make collect telephone calls, write notes at a small desk in his cell and sleep on the small bunk.
Eva Visco's remains were cremated earlier this week. Family members are planning a small memorial service for her that might be held today at a family member's Leesburg home.
Leo Visco will not be able to attend his wife's memorial service because he is under house arrest.