Lansing, Mich. If prosecutors are right, Kathleen Holey did everything she could to help her son and daughter-in-law commit suicide: She drove them to an abandoned farmhouse, arranged pillows and blankets for their comfort and handed over a powerful narcotic.
The daughter-in-law survived, though, setting off an investigation that led law enforcement authorities to Holey.
After a puzzling two weeks, authorities have offered a clue to why the healthy 19-year-old couple made a suicide pact: They were under investigation on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl.
Holey, a 42-year-old divorcee, has been charged with two counts of assisted suicide. She could become the first person convicted under a 1998 Michigan law enacted to stop Jack Kevorkian from helping terminally ill people kill themselves.
Clinton County prosecutor Charles Sherman said he believed Holey convinced the couple that suicide was their best option and could improve her chances of getting custody of their 8-month-old child. The baby had been taken from the couple by the state a week after the alleged rape and one day before the suicide attempt.
Jennifer Holey, the daughter-in-law found dazed and wandering after the suicide attempt, is charged with criminal sexual conduct for allegedly helping her now-dead husband, Patrick, assault the teen-age girl April 1.
Jennifer Holey, who is pregnant, will be arraigned when she is released from a psychiatric hospital.
Police and prosecutors in two counties are still trying to determine what happened in the days leading up to the April 9 suicide.
"You can't conceive of wanting to help your child kill themselves," said Sherman, who filed the assisted suicide charges. "There has to be some reason. I'm just as anxious to know what that reason is myself."
Sherman said Kathleen Holey was resolute in her decision that suicide was the best way out for the teen-agers, who were married last August.
According to prosecutors, she drove the couple to a pharmacy to fill her prescription for fentanyl, a painkiller she used to treat chronic pain from a head injury. She then took them to a McDonald's for their final meal before heading to the abandoned farmhouse where they had chosen to die.
In the van, Patrick and Jennifer Holey swallowed anti-nausea medication so they wouldn't throw up when they took the fentanyl.
According to Sherman, Kathleen Holey wore gloves to cover her fingerprints as she arranged the bedding and divided up the fentanyl. She allegedly told the teens how to apply the fentanyl patches, but made a point of not applying them herself.
The prosecutor said he believes she returned the next day to remove the prescription bottle with her name on it. "If Jennifer hadn't lived, it would have been the perfect crime," Sherman said.
Kathleen Holey faces up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted.