This just in: Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is about to announce the issuance of search warrants in the 2006 assisted suicide of a mentally ill Phoenix woman.
The case, which involved volunteers coming to town to help 58-year-old Jana Van Voorhis kill herself, was first reported by New Times staff writer Paul Rubin in this cover story. The volunteers were part of the nonprofit Final Exit Network, an offshoot of the now-defunct Hemlock Society -- one of them was a senior citizen who'd traveled all the way from Colorado to "help" with the suicide.
The case was particularly troubling to the experts interviewed by Rubin because Van Voorhis suffered from chronic mental illness -- and the volunteers apparently tried to stage the suicide as if Van Voorhis had killed herself without their assistance. It was only thanks to detective work from the Phoenix Police Department that the Final Exit Network's involvement came to light.
As Rubin reported in 2007:
Maricopa County prosecutors are contemplating whether to file manslaughter charges against two senior citizens who have admitted to guiding Jana Van Voorhis through her suicide on April 12.
Arizona law makes it a crime to intentionally aid another person in committing suicide. But the prosecution would be a first in the state of Arizona, in part because the word "aid" is fraught with legal uncertainties in such circumstances.
Convictions would be anything but a slam dunk, but the facts in this case are extremely disturbing.
We'll have more on this case as it develops, so stay tuned. Meantime, we suggest you give Rubin's story a read -- it's a page-turner.