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‘We had a beautiful relationship’: Quebec man accused of killing ailing wife takes stand in his defence

Michel Cadotte, accused of murder in the 2017 death of his ailing wife in what has been described as a mercy killing, is seen at the courthouse in Montreal on January 7, 2019.
Michel Cadotte, accused of murder in the 2017 death of his ailing wife in what has been described as a mercy killing, is seen at the courthouse in Montreal on January 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A man charged with killing his wife at a Montreal long-term care facility told a jury Friday he struggled to provide care as her advanced Alzheimer’s worsened.

As he began testifying at his second-degree murder trial, Michel Cadotte told the jury the disease took hold quickly of his wife, Jocelyne Lizotte, even before her formal Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2011.

By then, Cadotte said, he was overwhelmed, struggling to keep his job while caring for his wife at home and hurting financially.

“No one,” Cadotte replied when his lawyer Elfriede Duclervil asked who was helping him look after his wife. Often fighting tears, Cadotte, 57, said friends and relatives slowly began to keep their distance.

The first signs of the disease appeared in 2008. By March 2013, Cadotte agreed to her hospitalization after being stretched too far.

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READ MORE: Defence begins in case of Quebec man charged with killing wife suffering from Alzheimer’s

Lizotte, 60, was found dead in her bed on Feb. 20, 2017 at the Emilie-Gamelin long-term care facility where she’d been living for three years. She was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which had left her unable to care for herself and detached from reality.

A head nurse at the facility testified earlier that Cadotte admitted to suffocating his wife with a pillow. His defence is drawing attention to Cadotte’s state of mind at the time of her death.

He told the jury Lizotte’s mother had also suffered from Alzheimer’s, and Lizotte had told him she would rather die than be placed in long-term care.

“She’d seen what her mother went through — she didn’t see her often — but to lose her dignity like that, she was too proud,” he said.

Cadotte tried to care for her, but was often overwhelmed. Desperate for a break, he sent her to a day centre three days a week. When she was home, Cadotte said he slept only a few hours a night because she needed attention.

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He recalled she once soiled herself after locking herself out of the bathroom when alone.

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“She understood it wasn’t normal,” Cadotte said, wiping away tears. “It was very hard to see her like that the first time.”

READ MORE: Crown outlines case against Quebec man charged with suffocating ailing wife

Finally, sleep-deprived and depressed, Cadotte told a doctor he’d had enough, and the doctor told him to seek hospitalization for Lizotte.

Photos entered into evidence by the defence showed a dramatic physical change in Lizotte — from standing and dancing with her husband at a 2012 Christmas party at the day centre to being restrained in a wheelchair with a head support by mid-2015.

Cadotte said even while she was hospitalized, he complained often about Lizotte’s treatment as health professionals struggled to contain her aggressive behaviour, leaving her covered in bruises.

He raised concerns about medications and the daily baths that agitated her.

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His defence is drawing attention to his state of mind at the time of her death.

Cadotte, 57, testified that Lizotte’s health deteriorated even before the formal Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2011.

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He said he struggled to maintain a job as Lizotte required more and more care at home.

In January 2014, after being shuffled between different hospitals, she was sent to the long-term nursing home where Cadotte said she was initially happy with her care on a specialized floor.

That changed when she moved to a floor with fewer staff.

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Cadotte said he met Lizotte for the first time at the cafeteria of a paper company where they both worked.

He said the meeting changed his life, and once they started dating she helped him stop using drugs.

“I always said this woman saved my life,” Cadotte said. He described their relationship as a true union — “one plus one.”

“We had a beautiful relationship,” he added. “It didn’t change from the beginning until her last breath.”

READ MORE: Trial begins for Quebec man charged with killing wife suffering from Alzheimer’s

The trial resumes on Monday.

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