Dec. 11, 2008— -- An Oklahoma man has been arrested after he told police he shot his wife because he didn't know how to tell her they'd been evicted.
Thomas Wayne Garrett, 59, is being held on one count of shooting with intent to kill as his wife lies in critical condition in a nearby hospital, according to Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes.
Cynthia Garrett, 54, had undergone at least two major surgeries, and there is a "strong likelihood" she'll die from her injuries, Clabes told ABCNews.com.
Clabes said Cynthia Garrett, who had a multitude of health problems, was shot the same day she was released from an Oklahoma City hospital after a 10-day stay, during which Garrett was evicted from the couple's rented house.
One of Clabes' officers happened to be at the city's hospital when Garrett rushed into the hospital saying his wife had been shot. While emergency workers tended to her, he drove off, Glabes said.
Police caught up with Garrett two miles down the road. Police did not believe his initial story, that Cynthia Garrett had been hit in a drive-by shooting, and Clabes said Garrett eventually confessed.
'Really Sad Case'
Clabes said Garrett told police that he'd driven around their neighborhood, not knowing how to tell his wife that they did not have a home to go to. He told police he eventually pulled over and shot her with a 38 caliber handgun.
The bullet, Clabes said, entered Cynthia Garrett's left breast and ripped through her lung, before settling in her chest cavity.
"He realizes she's suffering, so he drives her to the emergency room," Clabes said, adding that Garrett told police his plan had been to kill his wife and then himself.
"It's a really sad case all around," he said.
Clabes said the Garretts had been having marital and financial problems for some time. He'd lost his job at a tire company several years ago and apparently hadn't worked since.
They lost their house in nearby Harrah about two years ago, he continued, and had been renting the house on Village Avenue. But with his wife's mounting medical bills the rent didn't get paid, and the owner of the house, who lives in California, went to civil court to get them evicted.
They were formally evicted by the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office Dec. 4, while Cynthia Garrett was hospitalized.
Clabes said he believes the motivation for the shooting to be a combination of things, including depression, Cynthia Garrett's medical history, marital problems and financial worries.
"I don't know if he felt like that was the best thing for both of them," he said. "We may never know."
Midwest City hasn't been immune to economic troubles, but Clabes didn't believe the area had been particularly hard hit with layoffs and foreclosures.
Still, he said, "with economic times the way they are … these people became desperate."
Clabes expected that Garrett would be transferred today to the county jail. Garrett did not yet have an attorney. Clabes said they are prepared to charge Garrett with first-degree murder should his wife die, though he would not face charges for carrying the gun without a permit.
Dealing With Stress
Kim Lebowitz, an assistant professor of surgery and psychiatry at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and also the hospital's director of cardiac behavioral medicine, said that instances like Garrett's or other cases of economy-driven suicide or crime are very rare.
"But in a severe situation when a person is so unable to cope, they do something extraordinarily drastic," she said.
For the most part, Lebowitz explained, humans are very resilient and most have the ability to deal with life's stresses no matter how insurmountable they may seem. People lose jobs, spouses, children and houses every day, she said, and they go on to rebuild their lives.
"Our ability to cope is actually much stronger than we give ourselves credit for," she said.
Mary Brower lived down the street from the one-story brick house the Garretts were renting. She had heard about the shooting on the news but had no idea it was them until another neighbor called.
"I guess he just snapped," she said.
Brower said she didn't know Cynthia Garrett well but said she was friendly and the two would wave to each other on the street.
"She liked to work in the yard a lot," Brower said. "She put a lot of flowers in the front."