Archive for Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lawrence man sentenced to life in prison for killing his ailing wife

May 15, 2014, 3:55 p.m. Updated May 15, 2014, 6:01 p.m.


Larry Hopkins, right, leaves a Douglas County courtroom Thursday after being sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of his wife, Margaret Hopkins, in November 2013. Hopkins read a statemement Thursday detailing his wife’s ailments. In the background are family and friends of Hopkins, including his sister, Melissa Quigley, second from right.

Larry Hopkins, right, leaves a Douglas County courtroom Thursday after being sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of his wife, Margaret Hopkins, in November 2013. Hopkins read a statemement Thursday detailing his wife’s ailments. In the background are family and friends of Hopkins, including his sister, Melissa Quigley, second from right.

Larry Hopkins told a judge Thursday that less than two weeks short of their 24th wedding anniversary he gave his ailing wife a final gift.

“I gave Margaret the last gift I could: I didn’t let her wake up,” Hopkins said of the Nov. 5, 2013, shooting of his wife, Margaret Hopkins, in their north-central Lawrence home. “I will not try to deny that I pulled the trigger, or that I made the decision not to let Margaret wake up.”

Hopkins, 67, read a four-page written statement on Thursday before District Judge Michael Malone sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

Before reading Hopkins’ sentence, Malone said that the law required that he impose a life sentence without parole eligibility for 25 years. “I wish you well, sir,” Malone said.

Friends and family traveled to be in the courtroom Thursday. They sat behind Hopkins, who was allowed to stay seated as he read a statement that began with meeting his wife on a blind date and getting married 100 days later.

Hopkins said his wife suffered from Type-2 diabetes before enduring multiple strokes, knee replacement surgeries and countless falls — one of which shattered her left femur. “She went from being an independent geriatric social worker to Social Security Disability and a wheelchair and walker,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said he suffered a stroke of his own after retiring from the Spencer Research Library in 2009. After rehab, calls to 911 replaced the care Hopkins once provided whenever Margaret fell. Once he regained enough strength, he said, he began asking neighbors for help. But around 2010, Hopkins underwent quadruple bypass surgery and, by 2013, Margaret’s condition had deteriorated further. Hopkins said his wife needed help getting in and out of bed and the shower and that he was too weak to help her much of the time.

Calm throughout much of his statement, Hopkins’ voice rose as he neared the end. “I will maintain until my dying day that Medicare killed my wife!” he said, slamming his paper down. Hopkins claimed Medicare would not cover a place for Margaret to stay after she was released from the hospital.

But District Attorney Charles Branson said Thursday that days before the shooting, a health care official was at their home to discuss housing options. Branson said Hopkins told investigators that he “didn’t want to sell off everything he owned and go someplace to die.”

“This did not have to be the final solution,” Branson said.

Also Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bauch, who prosecuted the case, said that because Hopkins made his decision without Margaret’s knowledge, he was charged with first-degree murder. Hopkins pleaded no contest to the charge in March after rejecting a plea offer that would have reduced the charge to felony murder and criminal discharge of a firearm. The deal would have produced a sentence of life with parole eligibility in 20 years instead of 25.

Among those in the courtroom Thursday was Hopkins’ younger sister, Melissa Quigley, who traveled from Wichita with her husband for the sentencing. She said that though their family was aware of the Hopkinses’ health issues, no one had any idea how bad it all became. She said she thought her brother worried about how Margaret would be cared for if anything happened to him.

“He never tired taking care of Margaret simply because he loved her and that was his wife,” Quigley said. “But it was more and more and more he was having to take care of her. I’m sure he felt like he failed her at times because he wasn’t able to do as much as he could for her.”


Garth Atchison 3 years, 10 months ago

What we learned: If you want to ease your partners suffering, you had better kill yourself, too. Then let the state clean up the mess and pay for it all.

Kevin Elliott 3 years, 10 months ago

If she did not give permission, the sentence was just, but another side of this tragedy is brownback and the tea partiers are working hard to allow fewer and fewer options for an increasingly aging population. Studies show caregiving to be very stresful. It would be just if brownback went to prison for complicity for creating a culture of elderly abandonment.

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

What has Brownback done to make it more difficult for the elderly? I am no Brownback fan, but I haven't seen what you're talking about. Maybe I missed it so tell me.

Cille King 3 years, 10 months ago

On channel 6 news last night, he said that the care that she received before was more recently denied (due to the changes made by the current Kansas administration).

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

What changes? I read where he blamed Medicare but I'd like to know what changes not to argue but to be informed.

People can say lots of things, but that doesn't mean its factual so help me understand what changes were made and how they affected his wife's care. Thanks.

Jim Slade 3 years, 10 months ago

You know perfectly well that Kansas went to a private for profit scheme for KanCare (which runs Medicare for the state).

How do you think these companies make a profit? By denying care.

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

But the company hasn't mad a profit and any proof they have denied care? They may have, I don't know and that is what I want to know. However, I'd like facts and not conjecture.

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 10 months ago

@ Kevin - You, sir, are a fear monger. You so much as accuse Gov. Brownback and the Tea Party of pulling the trigger. There were options for this man and he refused them. It is not society's obligation to provide cradle to grave care for its citizens. Merely because this man wanted a specific level of care does not mean that the taxpayer must provide it. There were social services available but this man thought it better to put a bullet through the head of his spouse. The victim didn't even have a decision in it.

Jim Slade 3 years, 10 months ago

" It is not society's obligation to provide cradle to grave care for its citizens."

So why even have a society if we're not going to act humane? I think caring for people from cradle to grave is what helps determine if you are a society or not.

Apparently you Christians are all about the individual and not the community.

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

You know the old adage, beggars can't be choosers comes to mind. I am in need but I don't like the help being offered so I will refuse it and commit murder instead. And yet some want to portray him as the victim.

Kevin Elliott 3 years, 10 months ago

the complete failure of your comment is that medicare medicaid is a charity program. They worked most of their lives, paid in to the system for decades, specifically to have access to healthcare when they would most need it. The government consistently spend the money on other things besides healthcare and now that they needed it, the money was gone so services were cut. To suggest they are looking for a handout from us is simply a lie.

Further, Brownback, and his other tea partiers could care less about healthcare for anyone but the wealthy. Since he represents a government that took the money from the people and decided to go it alone as to how to then provide the healthcare they paid for and decided they did not deserve to get what they paid for, he is partly to blame. I stand by my statement based on those facts.

John Graham 3 years, 10 months ago

He had options. He chose to murder his wife. He got sent to die in prison. It is that simple. Brownback has no blame in this.

Kevin Elliott 3 years, 10 months ago

Bless your heart. Please try to keep up with the conversation. I clearly stated i agreed with the sentencing. Still, brownback cuts to healthcare increased a situation that is considered one of the most stressful any of us could ever face and made it worse. He holds responsibility for his part of this crime as well.

John Graham 3 years, 10 months ago

No he doesn't. It is a simple equation. Man made his choice to kill wife. He killed wife. He had other non-lethal options which he did not avail himself or his wife of. Trying to blame Brownback for any of this simply shows your bias against him. Provide evidence of a program that this man tried to avail himself or his wife of that was denied by a Brownback directed cutback. Then you have an argument against Brownback. Until then you are simply mindlessly rambling without any factual basis.

Gerald Kerr 3 years, 10 months ago

Government controlled medicine is a disaster. Costs and rules regulations and mandates imposed from bureaucrats on high suck the lifeblood out of the health care delivery system. See the latest lies, dissembling, stone-walling, from the V.A. See the loss of options, loss of doctors, hospitals, coverages for cancer care drugs, that have occurred under ObamaCare. See that with Obamacare there was a forced 850 billion dollar chunk taken pout of medicare funding in part to pay for the boondoggle government medical system, Obamacare. We have met the enemy and it is our foolish incompetent government regulated healthcare system. Bureaucrats self serving bureaucrats from top to bottom. What a great idea and I don't know how the fool Republicans managed to offer not one vote for the disgusting program. They usually are first in line to destroy their credibility by growing ever more incompetent and corrupt government.

Kevin Elliott 3 years, 10 months ago

Get this. I agree that it is a disaster, but...

The free market will be worse as the poor die in droves.

John Graham 3 years, 10 months ago

When you have some real factual evidence to support your wild claim that droves of people are dying that will be saved by ACA get back to us. Until then you got nothing but your biased ramblings.

Seth Peterson 3 years, 10 months ago

I think we have close to 10,000 years of recorded history that provides plenty of evidence.

John Graham 3 years, 10 months ago

Again when you have proof of "droves" that were dying are now saved get back to us. Until then you have nothing.

3 years, 10 months ago

You don't end your spouses life with a gun and you certainly DO NOT end that life without consent. The man has got problems. The stress of the chronic illnesses intensified them.

Amy Heeter 3 years, 10 months ago

They weren't getting help. If the only way they could get help wad to sell everything to go to a nursing home well that is not help. People have the right to dignity. The judge had no choice based ln the charges filed, but Charles Branson filed the wrong charges. Shame on you Mr. Branson. Drug dealers get diversions. The guy that just got shot ln mothers day just got off probation fir robbery. But a old man driven to helplessness by a failed system gets life. Think about that!

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

What help should they have gotten?

I don't disagree that the disparity in sentencing is wrong, but I look at it as the robber got off too easy not that a iLife sentence for murdering your wife is too hard.

No matter how anyone wants to spin it, no matter the difficulties faced, he murdered his wife. This was not assisted suicide, this was murder.

Matthew Herbert 3 years, 10 months ago

I hope that when I reach that point in life that my wife has the courage to do what Larry did. Death with dignity ought to be a basic human right.

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

Matthew, I agree that a person should be able to end their life, especially in those circumstances, but no one should be allowed to make that choice for you.

There should be no laws restricting a person from ending their own life provided they are of a sound mind and are not coercived into doing it. .

Chuck Wehner 3 years, 10 months ago

I think they just made a lot of wrong choices in there lives, like a better diet and exercise probably would have alleviated a lot if not all of there health problems.

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