‘I loved her’: Montreal man on trial for murder of ailing wife testifies about her death

Michel Cadotte, accused of murder in the 2017 death of his ailing wife in what has been described as a mercy killing, returns to the courtroom to testify in Montreal. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

A Quebec man on trial for the death of his wife told jurors Monday that he suffocated her with a pillow because he couldn’t stand to see her suffering from Alzheimer’s disease anymore.

Michel Cadotte’s testimony centered on the day of Feb. 20, 2017, when Jocelyne Lizotte was found dead in her bed at a Montreal long-term care facility.

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Cadotte testified he was angry and saddened when he arrived that morning to find Lizotte, her neck twisted and her body hunched to one side, strapped to her geriatric chair without a specialized headrest. He said he cried through much of the final visit, struggling to get her to eat her liquid-diet lunch, plying her with pieces of chocolate.

As she fell asleep, Cadotte put Lizotte, 60, in her bed. He said he had trouble placing a pillow under his wife’s head. He said he can’t explain what happened, but after a couple of attempts, he placed the pillow over her face and smothered her.

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“She was suffering too much,” Cadotte testified.

When he removed the pillow, he said, Lizotte’s eyes were open and she looked serene. “It had been years since I’d seen her like that,” he said, in tears. He said he closed her eyes and spent a few minutes with her before heading downstairs to smoke a cigarette.

He said he thought of attempting to revive her when he returned upstairs — he had first aid training — but didn’t.

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“I told myself she was better off. She wasn’t suffering anymore,” Cadotte said. “I was sorry to not have her for me anymore, but at least she wasn’t suffering — I think that’s something everyone wanted.”

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Cadotte, 57, explained he was in rough shape when he arrived at the centre that day. Recent friction with his own children had led him to cut ties with them, and he had spent the weekend on a bender of beer and tequila, getting little sleep. He had also been dealing with health ailments that left him in pain and unable to see Lizotte regularly.

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He is charged in the death of Lizotte, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease that had left her unable to care for herself and detached from reality.

Cadotte’s defence lawyers are drawing attention to his state of mind at the time of her death, which they say doesn’t support the second-degree murder charge brought against their client.

One year before her killing, Cadotte had sought a medically assisted death for Lizotte but was told she didn’t qualify because she was not at the end of her life and could not consent. The trial has heard he admitted to the head nurse and several relatives that he had taken Lizotte’s life.

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Cadotte said the only time he had previously thought about ending his wife’s life was when she was a patient at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal for a few months in 2013 and he felt she wasn’t getting adequate treatment.

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“Even when I made the request for medical aid in dying, I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t bear to watch her suffer,” he said.

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. For two years he resisted advice from a doctor to put Lizotte in care before his own health problems and depression made it impossible to care for her at home.

Cadotte’s lawyer, Elfriede Duclervil, noted that even Lizotte’s adult children had stopped going to see her, as had her sister, who couldn’t bear to see her in her condition. The lawyer asked why Cadotte didn’t do the same.

“She was my wife. I loved her,” Cadotte replied. “I wasn’t able to.”

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