76-year-old retired teacher allegedly killed terminally ill husband inside hospital room

News & Politics

An elderly Florida woman has been indicted on reduced charges after she allegedly shot and killed her terminally ill husband at a local hospital and then threatened the safety of others by continuing to wield the weapon for hours afterward.

On January 21, 77-year-old Jerry Gilland was lying in AdventHealth Hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida, suffering from an undisclosed terminal illness. According to reports, he had wanted to end his life for some time but had grown too weak. Around 11:30 a.m. that day, Gilland loaded a .38 revolver and held the wrist of his wife, 76-year-old Ellen Gilland, who then brought the gun to her husband’s head and fired, police said.

When hospital personnel heard the shot, they came running into the room where Jerry had been lying in bed. When they entered, Ellen supposedly pointed the gun at them and ordered them to leave, thus initiating a four-hour standoff with police.

SWAT team members attempted to distract Ellen with a nonlethal explosive device. They also reportedly used a Taser on her, but neither of those tactics was successful, they said. At one point, the suspect even aimed the weapon at an officer before firing a round that hit the ceiling. She then reportedly dropped the gun and was taken into custody. Police later reportedly found additional ammunition in her car.

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Ellen Gilland had supposedly made a promise to Jerry three weeks earlier that she would help him end his life, should his condition continue to deteriorate. Some reports also indicate that Ellen had originally promised Jerry that she would kill herself after he died, though if she ever made that promise, she did not follow through with it.

The retired special education teacher was initially charged with first-degree premeditated murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but a grand jury decided instead to indict her on the lesser charge of first-degree assisting self-murder/manslaughter, as well as two counts of third-degree aggravated assault with a firearm and one count of second-degree aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. She has been denied bond twice since her arrest, after prosecutors argued that she posed a threat to the local community.

Despite this apparent show of violence, Ellen’s niece, Beatriz Timme, has come to her defense. “[H]ad there been a law in our state, a Death with Dignity law, I truly feel in my heart the situation would not be what it is today,” Timme said. “My aunt wouldn’t be in jail. My uncle might be gone, but maybe he would be gone in a more peaceful way.”

Timme added that the couple had been married for 53 years and loved each other very much. She said that her aunt acted out of desperation, not malice. “She’s just been through a huge ordeal,” Timme said, adding, “Well, she’s lost the love of her life.”

Ellen Gilland has a pretrial hearing scheduled for March 22.

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