This is a story that has been developing over the past few days and it has more than a few twists. Here’s one of the most comprehensive news stories on the case from Wave3 News in Louisville, KY:
ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (WAVE) – Was it assisted suicide or cold blooded murder? That’s the question Michele Daugherty’s friends have after the Noblesville, Indiana woman was found dead in an Elizabethtown, Kentucky hotel room. Now her husband is behind bars charged with murder, but some Indiana friends of the couple are wondering if what happened in Elizabethtown was a mercy killing.
It’s a strange case that has police investigators seeing a clear cut crime. But friends of Lonnie and Michele Daugherty see a totally different picture – an illness and a way out.
“If she was as sick as I’m hearing, then I could see her not wanting to live,” said Howard Struck, a former boyfriend of Michele’s in an interview with an Indianapolis television station.
The couple checked into the Holiday Inn Express off Interstate 65 in Elizabethtown a few days ago. They were supposed to check out on Saturday morning and get back on the road. Because the housekeeping staff at the hotel was eager to get the room ready for the next guest, they knocked on the door. Getting no answer, they let themselves in and made a shocking discovery.
“They discover two bodies laying in the bed and it appears to them, both have been deceased,” said Officer Virgil Willoughby, an Elizabethtown Police Department spokesperson.
However, police say that wasn’t the case. While both husband and wife had injuries to the neck, 56-year-old Michele was strangled, but 37-year-old Lonnie was still breathing. Police say Lonnie Daugherty’s wounds were superficial.
“He’s interviewed at the hospital where he admits to assisting his wife in committing suicide,” Willoughby said.
Back in an Indiana apartment complex where the couple lived until evicted recently, various neighbors have been saying that Michele Daugherty was “dying” from cancer – some saying she had “weeks” to live and others saying it as a few months.
As someone who’s been appalled by the irresponsible comments of some pretty stupid cops in other cases, I am impressed with the spokespersons from the Elizabethtown Police Department. In a number of other cases I’ve read over the years, the first mention of the term “mercy killing” has come from some clueless cop who based the opionion on nothing other than the victim being old, ill or disabled. None of that from the Elizabethtown Police – they note he “admits” to assisting suicide, but they’re charging him with murder. There’s more from officer Virgil Willoughby here in regard to Michele Daugherty’s murder being a “mercy killing.”:
“There’s no defense, as far as I’m concerned that’s going to say, ‘ Hey, it’s OK to go out and kill your wife or husband for that matter,” said Willoughby.
“She asked for it” isn’t a valid defense. I’d also imagine the police want more info on her actual health status. They may also wonder – as I do – why she didn’t have sufficient painkillers to kill herself if she was really close to death due to an aggressive cancer. Most people would choose that over strangulation.
One more thing about this case. Aside from murder, Lonnie Daugherty is also charged with cruelty to animals. They had a cat with them. The cat was found dead in the hotel room and Lonnie admits to strangling the cat, which may account for his “superficial” wounds.
Considering all the arguments I get in over the “we’re kinder to animals than we are to humans” crap regarding euthanasia, I’m surprised that this hasn’t been discussed in the coverage.
Did they cut out footage of neighbors talking about how – through a tragic coincidence – the cat was also terminally ill? (Yes – that’s sarcasm)
Try to picture a sweet and gentle person lovingly strangling a cat. If you can do that, you have a much better imagination than I do.
Sometimes, in violent domestic situations, one partner (usually male) will hurt the other person by doing violence to their pet. It’s a possibility to explore at least.
Let’s ask the neighbors if they can figure out why the cat was killed, how “grateful” the cat was for the “merciful” death, and how that fits in with their thoughts about how and why Lonnie Daugherty killed Michelle. It makes sense – after all, no one can claim that Lonnie treated his wife any worse – or better – than he did the cat. –Stephen Drake