Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:59 p.m.
An update on our August 2007 story
entitled "Death Wish," the bizarre tale of how a so-called "right to die" organization, the Final Exit Network, helped a mentally troubled Phoenix woman to commit suicide.
Earlier this week, New Jersey resident Roberta Massey, who is one of the four criminal defendants in the highly publicized Maricopa County Superior Court case, pleaded guilty to one count of facilitation to commit manslaughter.
The charge is punishable by a short prison term, but probation also is a possibility if Judge Paul McMurdie decides to go that direction.
As part of her plea bargain, the 64-year-old woman agreed to testify against the remaining two defendants, including 85-year-old Scottsdale resident Frank Royal Langsner.
The original New Times story broke the news of the tragic death of 58-year-old Jana Van Voorhis.
Her sister and brother-in-law found her dead in bed at her Phoenix home in April 2007, apparently of natural causes. But a postmortem exam showed the woman's cause of death to be helium asphyxiation.
Turned out that Van Voorhis had suffered from serious depression and other ailments, but nothing of a terminal nature.
She contacted the Final Exit Network, who dispatched two so-called "exit guides," Langsner and Colorado resident Wye Hale-Rowe, to Phoenix to assist her suicide.
The case led to a nationwide investigation by the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and police agencies in several states.
Roberta Massey was a "case coordinator" for Final Exit at the time if Van Voorhis' death, and authorities alleged that she had assigned Frank Langsner to "assist" the woman in dying.
Court records show that Massey told police in a 2009 interview in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, that she had ended her involvement with Final Exit in early 2008.
Early in the interview, Massey told a detective that she could not answer questions about the Georgia-based Final Exit Network, and that "they [Final Exit] would take my head off if I said too much."
Well, if she abides by the terms of her plea bargain, Massey will saying plenty if any of the remaining two defendants actually go to trial.
One of the other defendants, Wye Hale-Rowe, earlier pled guilty to the same charge as Massey--facilitation to commit manslaughter--and agreed to testify against the others should the remaining two go to trial.
Good work by Phoenix police detectives and investigators from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office on this one.