Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009 | 10:49 a.m.
An 86-year-old Las Vegas man who police say shot and killed his wife but failed in his attempt to commit suicide will remain jailed unless a psychiatric evaluation shows he’s no longer a danger to himself.
Justice of the Peace Nancy Oesterle kept the bail for Joseph Woods at $150,000 today pending the outcome of the mental health exam.
Woods is charged with murder with a deadly weapon for shooting his 80-year-old wife, Kay, on Sept. 23 in their home near downtown.
Woods shot his wife then turned the gun on himself to end the physical suffering both of them endured, said his attorney Dan Silverstein, a deputy public defender.
Silverstein called the case a “quality of life issue” and compared Woods’ actions to removing a terminal patient from life support.
“There’s a real danger when we let the government step in between two adults that love each other,” he said. “You can’t convict for an act of mercy.”
Silverstein said he hoped the state would have dropped the case because there was no malice in Woods’ actions, which is legally required for a murder charge.
“There is an intent to kill but it is not with malice,” he said. “And this killing in this case is not an act of malice. It is an act of kindness and compassion.”
Deputy District Attorney Aaron Nance said the murder was premeditated and deliberate.
Both attorneys did agree that Woods was not a flight risk. He requires a wheelchair to get around, his children live in the area and he has no criminal record.
However, Nance said Woods has become more depressed because his wife died and he didn’t. Woods is still a threat to himself, Nance said.
“His prospects and outlook on life have only gotten worse since he faces prosecution,” he said.
Silverstein asked the bail be set at $5,000 so the family can afford to get him out of the Clark County Detention Center and into a medical facility.
Woods’ children are trying to get him admitted to a medical center or veterans’ hospital so he can receive appropriate care for numerous health problems including an aneurysm, Silverstein said.
Oesterle agreed that this was not a typical murder case but wasn’t convinced that Woods might not try to kill himself again.
“Even the family with the best intentions cannot always prevent someone from killing himself,” she said. “He’s a high risk. There is no do-over in suicide.”
Oesterle said she would revisit the case again prior to a preliminary hearing set for Oct. 23 if a psychiatric exam is performed by then.
According to police, Woods shot his wife in the bedroom of their home at 1808 S. 10th Street. He then shot himself in the chest.
The couple’s grown children found them the next morning. Joseph was still breathing but Kay was dead.
Silverstein said the Woods’ children told him Kay had attempted suicide the previous two days. The couple left a note asking for forgiveness.