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Call describes 'mercy killing'


To listen to the 911 audio, follow this link.

AVON — Between deep sighs, 85-year-old Robert Shaw spoke wearily into the phone from his Avon home Wednesday morning.

He needed police assistance, he told the dispatcher, but he hesitated when asked why.

Finally, he confessed.

“I just killed my wife,” Shaw said on a 911 recording to an Avon police dispatcher. “… I wanted to put her out of her misery.”

Shaw’s 7:22 a.m. call led police to a house on the 2900 block of Shakespeare Lane, where they found the body of his wife, 84-year-old Virginia Shaw.

Lorain County Coroner Paul Matus said the presumptive cause of her death was asphyxia and was a result of an apparent homicide.

Although Matus’ ruling isn’t complete, Shaw’s own admissions on the 911 recording match what Matus has found.

“How did you do this, sir?” the dispatcher asked.

“Suffocated her,” Shaw replied.

“How, with a pillow or a blanket?” the dispatcher asked.

“Yes,” Shaw said.

Shaw told the dispatcher that his wife had been in and out of the hospital but had returned home a couple of months ago. He attempted to go on, but his voice faltered.

“… I can’t talk,” he said.

Police say they walked in through an unlocked door to find Shaw sitting at a table at the home. He can be heard on the 911 recording telling officers that they could find his wife in the back bedroom.

Paramedics tried to save Virginia Shaw, but she was pronounced dead a short time later at Avon Emergency Care Center. Matus said it appeared as though she suffered from failing health for a long time, but he was still awaiting test results and medical records from hospitals.

Shaw was questioned by Avon police and later taken to an area hospital for evaluation. His condition wasn’t known Thursday as police did not release further information about the case.

In the couple’s Shakespeare Lane neighborhood, few recalled ever seeing Virginia Shaw, and some only saw her husband when he retrieved the mail.

“He seemed like an all-right guy,” said neighbor Paul Gerrick. “He was one of those neighbors that would wave back to you, but didn’t really get to know you.”

Matus said the couple had a daughter. Some family members leaving the couple’s home Thursday declined to comment.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or

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