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90 days in workhouse for Twin Cities man who assisted ailing wife's suicide

Paul Walsh, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- A 61-year-old Eden Prairie, Minn., man will serve 90 days in the county workhouse for helping his ailing wife kill herself.

Thomas J. Houck, 61, pleaded guilty Friday in Hennepin County District Court and was immediately sentenced in connection with the asphyxiation death in August of 59-year-old Linda I. Conrad in their home.

Houck's felony sentence from Judge Kathryn Quaintance also includes three years' probation, 90 days of community service and $1,078 in fines and fees. Five days were trimmed off his workhouse term for the time he was jailed after his arrest. If he abides by the terms of his probation, the conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor on his otherwise clean criminal history.

"One of the reasons for the disposition is that the mother of his wife sent a letter (to the court) in support of Thomas," defense attorney Earl Gray said Tuesday. Others also submitted similar letters ahead of sentencing, Gray said.

The statute calls for up to 15 years in prison upon conviction for assisted suicide, and there is no state guideline for what punishment should be imposed. Gray said that his research showed that Houck's sentence for that crime is typical around the state.

"It was a just plea agreement and sentence," he said.

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Houck called 911 about 2:20 a.m. on Aug. 16 and told the dispatcher that he awoke in the middle of the night to find his wife had "euthanized herself," according to the criminal complaint.

When police arrived at the home in the 18300 block of Cascade Drive, they found Conrad dead and a handwritten note nearby. It said she "could not endure any more pain and needed a way out of the pain," the complaint read.

Neighbors reported not seeing Conrad leave the home in the years since she was severely injured in an accident.

Conrad had medical problems ever since she was child and endured chronic migraines, severe stomach pain, allergies and depression until the very end, said Tim Conrad, who married her in 1987 and remained a close friend since their divorce in 2006.

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