AKRON, Ohio — A man accused in the fatal shooting of his wife of 45 years in a hospital intensive care unit once told his longtime co-worker that the couple had agreed they never wanted to become disabled in a nursing home.
Authorities on Wednesday charged John Wise, 66, with aggravated murder in his wife's death as police continued to investigate whether it was a mercy killing.
Terry Henderson, who worked at a northeast Ohio steel plant with Wise for three decades, said he believes his friend did not want his wife, Barbara Wise, to suffer after having three aneurysms.
"John Wise is no criminal. He did what he did out of love," said Henderson, whose voice remained steady Wednesday except for a brief moment when he wiped tears with both fists.
He said those who know Wise would "take it on face as a mercy killing, because they know John."
Police say Wise calmly walked into his 65-year-old wife's room Saturday at Akron General Medical Center without drawing any attention and shot her at her bedside. She died the next morning.
On Wednesday morning, Wise appeared before a municipal court judge in Akron via video from jail, but did not enter a plea. He must return to court Aug. 22.
His attorney, Paul Adamson, said after the brief court session that Wise was a good man. "I think his past history bears that out," Adamson said.
"Forty-five years of marriage, blessed to be deeply in love with his wife throughout those 45 years, and I am absolutely confident that everything that he's ever done for his wife has been done out of deep love, including the events that just recently transpired," the lawyer said.
Barbara Wise suffered triple cerebral aneurysms on July 28 and had been left unable to speak, Henderson said. He said he drove Wise to visit her at the hospital three times last week and that his friend had seemed to be holding up well.
Henderson said he is certain that Wise intended to kill his wife and then himself.
Authorities say Wise took a taxi 25 miles to the hospital. Taking the taxi, Henderson said, showed "he had no intention of coming home."
Henderson said he suspects the handgun jammed and that Wise had difficulty unjamming it because of nerve damage that was so severe it left him unable to drive.
A woman who identified herself as a nurse told a 911 dispatcher that people in the ICU heard a popping sound and ran to Barbara Wise's room where they saw a man dressed in black.
"We saw him sitting there with a gun. He was, like, loading it," she said.
Wise was an exemplary husband without a hint of domestic violence, Henderson said. Court records showed no serious charges against him.
Wise never went out with the guys at night, instead staying home with his wife, Henderson said. He said Wise never wanted to become disabled in a nursing home and mentioned that Barbara Wise felt the same way.
"You wouldn't meet a more loving husband," he said.
Emergency personnel responded to the Wises' home in Massillon on July 28, a week before the shooting, for a medical call that involved advanced life support, including oxygen and a heart monitor.
A man, apparently Wise, told an emergency dispatcher that his wife was vomiting and not responding. "My wife is having some sort of a spasm or attack," the man said, giving the couple's address. "Hurry."
Wise was hospitalized right after the shooting and later taken into custody wearing a hospital gown, police said Wednesday. It was not clear why he was hospitalized, a police spokesman said.