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88-year-old man sentenced to six months for attempted mercy killing of wife

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

While stating he did not see malicious intent in the 88-year-old defendant's actions, Erie County Court Judge Kenneth Case said Thursday afternoon he could not allow Martin Turkiewicz to go unpunished for an admitted hammer attack on his wife last year. Turkiewicz was sentenced to six months jail and five years probation for a crime that was motivated by a desire to end his ailing longtime wife's suffering.

Turkiewicz pleaded guilty last November to an assault charge, admitting he carried out the attack with the desire to end his longtime spouse's life. Shaking and tearing up in court Thursday, he expressed remorse for the incident.

"I am completely responsible for my actions and admit that I made a mistake a horrible mistake and decision, thinking I could end my wife's pain and suffering," he said. "Only God has that right."

Defense attorney Rodney Personius spent approximately an hour citing numerous testimonials from people who described Turkiewicz as a loving, devoted man who was burdened with caring for his blind son as well as his wife of more than 60 years. Rita Turkiewicz, according to accounts in court, had battled dementia and other health problems and at times had revealed she wanted to die.

The couple's youngest daughter, Diane Cline, spoke on behalf of the family saying their father indeed made a terrible mistake but that their mother, who recovered from her injuries, has forgiven her husband and yearns to see him again.

"Through all this our family has remained dedicated to both mother and father, making daily visits to mom in the nursing home," Cline said. "We try to fill in her loneliness, as she misses her lifelong companion. She forgives him, misses him, she's always asking for him, crying for him, worrying about his health and recently having nightmares that he's died."

Judge Case stated that he sees no malicious intent in Martin Turkewicz's actions but he could not go along with the defense's request for probation only.

"I think to not impose some amount of incarceration would be to condone, or acquiesce in, the conflict," Case said. "We obviously can't have people running around with hammers, bludgeoning their wives because they think that it's their wish that they die."

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, speaking after the sentencing, told reporters in his office that he does not want Turkiewicz to die in prison and would "feel awful" if that were to happen. But like Judge Case, Fkynn will not let individuals carry out actions such as those by Turkiewicz without punishment, even under such sad circumstances.

"I feel for Mr. Turkiewicz," Flynn said. "I have mercy for Mr. Turkiewicz. I think that I showed him mercy when I allowed him to plea to assault instead of attempted murder."

Judge Case denied a defense request to allow Turkiewicz until Monday to surrender. He was led out of the courtroom though not placed in handcuffs. Flynn said he will serve his time in a county jail, to be determined by the Erie County Sheriff's Office.