June 12, 2008 -- A judge on Wednesday freed without bond an elderly man accused of killing his cancer-stricken wife after the couple's children said their father acted out of mercy and should not be sent to prison.
Robert Benjo, 82, was arrested last week on second-degree murder charges. He has admitted shooting his wife, who suffered from cancer and Alzheimer's disease, in the head while she slept, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office in Florida.
A judge on Wednesday released Benjo without bond after an emotional hearing during which he tearfully admitted that he killed his wife and his children pleaded for their father's release. Benjo had been in custody since his arrest.
According to the sheriff's office, Benjo told investigators his wife had been ill and in declining health since having a colon operation in December. He said his wife, Peggy, wanted her pain to end and no longer had the will to live, the sheriff's office said.
"As terrible as it is, it was the best thing for her," the couple's doctor, Humberto Dominguez, told ABC News. "I'm Catholic, I believe in life, but we have to understand and be flexible."
Benjo has not been formally charged by the state attorney's office. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 2. The prosecuting attorney in the case, Lea Case, declined to comment, saying her office was reviewing the case. If charged and convicted of second-degree murder, Benjo could face up to life in prison.
Benjo's attorney did not immediately return a message left at his office.
"She lost the will to live," Dominguez said. "She wanted to give up."
Teresa Hiller, the victim's daughter, told ABC affiliate WFTV, "She said, 'I lost everything, I'm unhealthy, I don't have the will to live.' And I said, 'Mom, you have to have the will to live,' and she said, 'I just don't have the energy.'"
Dominguez said Peggy Benjo had lost about 50 pounds in the last year and that she had about a year to live.
"I am totally convinced that he did this as a mercy act," Dominguez said. "This man is a good man who has never, ever done anything bad, who is dedicated to his wife and family."