Police say man induced his wife to commit suicide - Quad-Cities Online: Illinois

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Police say man induced his wife to commit suicide

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Posted: Monday, August 10, 1998 12:00 am

TRENTON, Ill. (AP) -- Things weren't going well the day George Olson turned 58. He and his wife had been arguing. There were money problems and a house back in California that just wouldn't sell.

And then his wife started talking about suicide.

But instead of trying to talk her out of it, authorities say, Olson loaded one of his pistols, showed his despondent wife where to point the gun and walked away.

Within hours, according to police, Anna Mae Olson -- the woman who had nursed her husband back to health following a stroke that cost him his career as a railroad engineer -- had a .22-caliber bullet hole between her eyes.

Olson is now one of the first people charged under a 1990 law that makes it a felony to induce a suicide. He goes to court on the charge next week.

Neither Olson nor his lawyer could be reached for comment. Neighbors say Olson moved to Belleville after the shooting and his lawyer, Joseph Heilingenstein of Carlyle, did not return repeated telephone messages left at his office.

But prosecutors say Olson acknowledged what happened May 26 at the plain two-story home they were renting in a tidy and quiet corner of this town of 2,000 people.

``He told the police, he told the paramedics, he told some of the neighbors, he told some of Mrs. Olson's relatives,'' said Henry Bergmann, the Clinton County state's attorney.

According to investigators, Olson and his wife had been fighting that morning. A sister in Glendale, Calif., told police that she could hear the couple arguing during a morning telephone call. Relatives spoke of abuse.

The couple was also having financial troubles. They had moved from Rosemead, Calif., in November and had been unable to sell their home there.

Mrs. Olson spent much of her time in California handling the sale, said Cindy Alexander, who lived next door to the Olsons. When they were both home, they were rarely seen together.

``They were pretty anti-social,'' Mrs. Alexander said.

According to Bergmann, Mrs. Olson became despondent and started talking about suicide. That's when, according to police Chief Mike Jones, Olson acknowledged retrieving a .22-caliber pistol, loading it and showing her where to point it -- between the eyes.

Then he left her alone.

A few hours later -- about 1:20 p.m. -- Anna Mae Olson, sitting on the toilet in a tiny bathroom, pressed the pistol to her forehead and pulled the trigger. She was pronounced dead 25 minutes later.

Coroner David Moss says he knows she committed suicide because it was a contact wound that angled up into the brain. That's consistent with suicide, he said.

``And there was no struggling on her part, no defensive wounds,'' Moss said.

But investigators knew from the beginning that the case was odd. After Olson told Jones that he didn't go for help after his wife started talking about killing herself, Bergmann knew he had to file charges.

Within a day, Bergmann had settled on the induced suicide charge, but it took police more than two months before they had enough information to make a case.

The Olsons had been in Trenton for just six months when the suicide occurred, and police had to gather and sort through statements from relatives in California, he said.

Bergmann said Mrs. Olson had no physical illness that would have prompted her to kill herself. Despite his willingness to divulge his alleged role in the suicide, Olson never provided a motive in statements he gave to police, Bergmann said.

But authorities say the relationship was troubled.

``There were some statements which led us to conclude that there were problems in the relationship, but I don't want to comment on any specifics of that right now,'' he said.

Bergmann says he knows of no other Illinoisan prosecuted under the induced suicide law.

To gain a conviction, Bergmann will have to prove that Olson knew his wife intended to commit suicide and that he physically provided her the means to do that.

He is scheduled for an Aug. 19 preliminary hearing in Carlyle.

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