MCSO investigating possible 'mercy killing' in Sun City

SUN CITY, AZ - A mercy killing or cold blooded murder?

For a second time in less than a year, investigators in Sun City are trying to figure out if a man shot his sick wife at her request, or because he couldn't take it anymore.

Deputies say 78-year-old Howard Rudolph shot his 73-year-old wife Earlene to death in the bathroom, possibly to end her suffering.

An ambulance at the Rudolph home has become a regular sight.

"There was fire, police and ambulances here the other day," said one neighbor.

Officials say medics were called to the couples' home to help Earlene Rudolph about 20 times recently.

Neighbors chalked it up to age. When crime tape went up Wednesday morning, it changed the tone.

Friends say Rudolph loved his wife.

"She was always in a wheelchair and he would push her around and sing to her and play his guitar."

But even from the other side of the fence, neighbor Shirley Strugalah could tell life had gotten harder. "I saw less and less of them, and finally I didn't see her come out at all anymore."

Police say Rudolph called 911 about an hour after neighbors heard a loud thud.

When questioned, he admitted he killed his wife. He told deputies he had to do it because she was sick.

Deputies say Rudolph left a note under the gun saying, "I loved her, money goes to shelter, she has been so hateful, I can't stand her."

Rudolph said he left the letter in the house for his attorney so he would know how to handle the body for cremation and what to do with their property.

Authorities are treating this as a mercy killing, and worry it won't be the last in this retirement community, a scene too much like another that started with an emergency call last year.

In November 2012, George Sanders was arrested for killing his wife Virginia Sanders.  Sanders was given probation in March.

Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio worries it's a trend we'll see more of as baby boomers age.

"This happened twice in our area since November. We're getting older. Is this going to become more prevalent to take someone's life because your spouse is suffering? We're going to have to face that issue," he said.

Rudolph is in jail for murder. Police still have a lot of questions, they don't know if he had planned to kill himself, or how long he'd planned this.

They also say he admitted to drinking Wednesday morning, before deputies showed up.

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