Terry Lee Daniel Sr., 62, shot his longtime girlfriend, Lisa Stevie Haynes, 55, through the heart inside the mobile home they shared in February 2012. Both Daniel and Haynes were suffering from chronic health problems and were in difficult financial straits, The (Portland) Oregonian reported Tuesday.
The case touched off a debate in the state over how such cases should be handled.
Haynes had epilepsy and a recent seizure was so violent it ruptured a disc in her neck, requiring surgery and a long, painful recovery made worse after an infection. Daniel, a Marine veteran who was only able to walk with the help of a walker, had his driver's license permanently revoked after five drunk driving convictions and had been tossed off the public transit system for 30 days after a confrontation with a bus driver.
It was while riding a special handicapped bus from Haynes' rehab facility that the couple confessed to each other they wanted to commit suicide.
So when they arrived home at the mobile home park in Milwaukie, just south of Portland, Daniel laid Haynes on their bed and fatally shot her in the heart with a .22-caliber pistol. He then sat on the ground next to her and shot himself in the chest -- except he missed his heart and only after laying on the ground for several minutes did he realize he wasn't going to die and called for help.
Prosecutors initially charged Daniel with second-degree murder. Defense attorney James E. Bernstein insisted that as any plea deal terms Daniel's act must be recognized as a mercy killing. He noted the couple attempted to record their death pact but they failed to use an electronic device properly and it didn't record the admissions.
At first prosecutors were skeptical but eventually Deputy District Attorney Lewis Burkhart said they came to agree Daniel wasn't a cold-blooded killer and reached Monday's plea deal.
"At first we didn't think so," Burkhart said. "But later, we came to see that's what they intended."
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