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Final Exit Network "Assisted Suicide" Defendant Pleads Guilty Today to Endangerment

An 86-year-old Scottsdale man pleaded guilty this morning to endangerment in the assisted-suicide case of a Phoenix woman who killed herself in 2007.

   

In April, a Maricopa County jury could not agree on whether Franklin Langsner was guilty of manslaughter by assisting in the suicide of 57-year-old Jana Van Voorhis.

The plea bargain today to the less-serious endangerment count calls for no jail time, and will allow the trial judge to deem it a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Langsner appeared in court with his Phoenix attorney, Antonio Bustamante, and agreed not to participate in future assisted suicides. The retired college professor was a local "exit guide" for the Final Exit Network, a national group said to have about 3,000 members.

One of the members was Jana Van Voorhis, a mentally troubled woman who sought out Final Exit in spring 2007, paid a $50 membership fee, and eventually was accepted as an assisted-suicide "case" by the organization. 

We broke the story of her sad and controversial death in an August 2007 piece called "Death Wish." Here you go with the link to it.

Langsner originally was tried with Dr. Lawrence Egbert, an 83-year-old anesthesiologist from Baltimore who is the volunteer medical director for Final Exit.

Though the jury hung on Langsner's guilt or innocence, it acquitted Egbert of conspiring to commit manslaughter by aiding in the Van Voohis suicide.

Langsner and a Michigan woman (a senior "exit guide") were on hand when Van Voorhis suffocated inside her east Phoenix home by inhaling helium through a tube while cutting off air flow by donning a tight hood. 

Two other onetime defendants, women from Michigan and Maryland, respectively, pleaded guilty before the Langsner/Egbert trial, and haven't been sentenced yet.

Judge Paul McMurdie scheduled an August 29 sentencing date for Langsner, who told us after the hearing that he is glad to be moving on with his life (our pun intended).

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin