Possible mercy killing investigated in Sun City

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Howard Rudolph By Andrew Michalscheck Howard Rudolph By Andrew Michalscheck
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SUN CITY, Ariz. -- Homicide detectives from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office are investigating an apparent mercy killing.

A strange 911 call just before 9 a.m. Wednesday prompted deputies to force their way into a home near the Loop 101 and Bell Road.

"We received a phone call from a 911 operator that took a call from someone in this house, person I believe hung up," said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Once inside the home, deputies found 78-year-old Howard Rudolph, a weapon, and Rudolph's 73-year-old wife, Earlene Rudolph. She was dead of what appears to be multiple gunshot wounds.

"He said that she was ill and he wanted to kill her. He killed her," said Arpaio.

Underneath the weapon, authorities said they found a note claiming Howard Rudolph was responsible for his wife's death. There was also a note for an attorney stating what to do with things such as money and funeral arrangements.

Howard Rudolph was taken to the hospital, according to the sheriff's department. He was then booked into jail on a first-degree murder charge.

"It's terribly sad," said neighbor Randy Ek. "I'm very compassionate even though I don't agree with mercy killing. I can understand it and I can see where watching someone you've loved for a long time become somebody that you don't even know anymore."

Deputies said they have been to the couple's home about twenty times recently. Each time someone would call 911 and then hang up.

Arpaio said he is concerned by the fact that this homicide occurred soon after George Sanders killed his wife. Sanders, 86, was sentenced to probation in March for fatally shooting his ailing wife last November.

Sanders said his 81-year-old wife suffered from multiple sclerosis and didn't want to spend the rest of her life in a nursing home.

The Associated Press contributed to this story