MASSILLON, Ohio – Police on Monday said an Ohio man accused of shooting his wife of 45 years as she lay in a hospital's intensive care unit has been cooperative and forthcoming with investigators, and they are looking into whether it was a mercy killing.
Akron police said 66-year-old John Wise entered 65-year-old Barbara Wise's hospital room at Akron General Medical Center on Saturday and fired one shot while standing at her bedside. She was declared dead hours later on Sunday morning.
A coroner's office scheduled an autopsy Monday for Barbara Wise, and the report will likely upgrade John Wise's attempted aggravated murder charge to a more serious type of murder charge, said Capt. Dan Zampelli.
Zampelli said John Wise immediately surrendered to hospital security, and he was restrained until police arrived.
"He's been cooperative and forthcoming with the investigators," Zampelli said. "He's given a statement to the investigators. It's certainly helping to assist with their investigation."
Zampelli said an initial court appearance for Wise likely wouldn't come until at least Tuesday or even Wednesday, as police wait for autopsy results to decide what charge would be appropriate.
Wise is under police guard in an undisclosed location, said Zampelli. He will soon be booked into the Summit County jail. No attorney is assigned to him yet.
The Wises lived together in a brick bungalow house with well-kept landscaping on a short street in Massillon, about 25 miles south of Akron. No one answered when an Associated Press reporter knocked on the door Monday.
Crystal Maxhimer, who lives two houses away, said she only knew the couple in passing. She said they appeared to be in good health, and she frequently saw them working on their yard together.
"She looked fine out in the front yard," she said. "Physically she looked fine."
Maxhimer said given the drive from Massillon to Akron, she believed John Wise must have been determined when he visited his wife in the hospital.
"He obviously was not going to go there and hurt anyone else," she said. "He obviously went up there to do it."
Jim Gosky, a spokesman for the medical center, said hospital security officers ran from the ground floor's emergency department to the ICU's third floor following a code silver, which alerts the hospital that someone has a weapon. A distinctive pop sound drew a physician's attention to respond, too. Akron police soon followed.
Gosky would not provide details about whether anyone else was in the room at the time of the shooting.
"It was an isolated incident," Gosky said. "No other staff was in harm."
Officials are looking into whether John Wise shot his wife in an attempted mercy killing, Zampelli said. He said police are still trying to determine why Barbara Wise had been in the hospital, though he confirmed she had been in critical condition and in the ICU for several days.
"We are in the preliminary stages of the investigation," Zampelli said. "Certainly him wanting to end his wife's suffering is one of the motives we're looking into."
Massillon Fire Chief Tom Burgasser said emergency personnel responded to the Wises' residence on July 28 for a medical call. He said privacy rules prevented him from releasing additional information, but he said the department treated a patient for a medical condition that involved advanced life support including oxygen, a heart monitor and IV.
Burgasser could not confirm if the patient was Barbara Wise, but said the patient was taken to Affinity Medical Center in Massillon. A hospital spokeswoman said she could not disclose any information about patients because of privacy rules.