Man killed elderly wife, overwhelmed by caretaking

Posted on November 19, 2008. Filed under: murder-suicide, South Carolina |

On Nov. 19, 2008, Hartner held a .25-caliber pistol behind 90-year-old Mildred Hartner’s head and shot her while she slept.

He then turned around and tried to shoot their 10-year-old dog, but the gun jammed. He went and grabbed a .9-millimeter pistol and killed the dog, but admitted he was too much of a coward to shoot himself. Instead, he downed 80 prescription pain pills and passed out.

The couple’s friend and hairdresser, Debra Sanders, found both of them hours later and called 911. Gus Hartner went into cardiac arrest, but he later recovered and has been in jail charged with murder. Close friends and defense attorney Harry Dest said Hartner did everything for his ailing wife. He bathed her, dressed her, bought all the food and cooked all the meals. When he brought her to the hair salon every week, he made sure her makeup and nails were done.

“The day before this incident, he told (the Department of Social Services) he could no longer take care of his wife,” Dest said.

In fact, Hartner had put his wife in nursing homes and then taken her home at least half a dozen times in 2008. He said he wanted to be with her, and didn’t think the nursing home staff treated her with dignity. Dest said Hartner realized once he got her home that he couldn’t care for her, but the cycle kept going. “This is a mercy killing,” Dest told the judge.  More on

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