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Police call murder-suicide an act of mercy

| Thursday, March 20, 2003

Although officially classified as a homicide, the suffocation death of a Ross woman would better be described as a mercy killing out of love, police say.

Carol Ann Kaczmarek, 63, and her husband Lawrence, 60, were found dead in their beds Tuesday night at their Sangree Road home. Police said a note written by Lawrence Kaczmarek indicates the couple planned the "murder-suicide" in advance.

"They were two people that were very much in love, and that love was part of what motivated the taking of their lives together," Terry Lutz, the couple's pastor for 10 years, said Wednesday.

Lutz said Carol Kaczmarek was terminally ill with cancer that had spread throughout her body.

"My understanding was she didn't wish to continue living, and Larry didn't want to live without her," Lutz said. "There was no malice. This was strictly out of love, and both of them wanted to be together and go to a pain-free place and live together."

Ross police Detective William Barrett said mercy killing is a more appropriate description of Carol Kaczmarek's death than murder.

"That's exactly how I would categorize it," Barrett said. "I don't believe there was any other motive on his (Lawrence Kaczmarek's) part other than mercy."

Police went to the Kaczmareks' home about 9 p.m. Tuesday after their daughter, Dawn Fitzwater of McKees Rocks, reported that she had not been able to contact the couple for several days.

Barrett said the Kaczmareks were found in their own beds. He said they slept in separate rooms because of Carol Kaczmarek's illness.

"The investigation leads us to the conclusion that Mr. Kaczmarek had taken his wife's life and then took his own life as well," Detective Benjamin Dripps said.

Barrett said there were no indications of any outside foul play.

The Allegheny County Corner's Office said Carol Kaczmarek died of asphyxiation by a plastic bag. An autopsy of Lawrence Kaczmarek was inconclusive and the coroner's office is awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

"There were instructions to the family, as well as a note detailing what had transpired in the events leading to the murder-suicide," Dripps said of notes they found written by Lawrence Kaczmarek.

Lutz said Carol Kaczmarek, formerly a real estate agent, was treated for depression several years ago and had been sick with cancer for five years. He said Lawrence sang in the church choir and, up until last week, ran the sound system at the church.

Lawrence Kaczmarek was an electrical engineer who quit work several years ago to care for his wife when she became ill, Lutz said.

"Larry took care of her completely -- day and night, around the clock -- he was always there," Lutz said.

He said Carol Kaczmarek chose to stop painful cancer treatments some time ago.

Lutz said Lawrence Kaczmarek's note was written more than a week ago.

"This was not an impulsive thing," he said. "It was something they had put a lot of thought into."

"Unfortunately, no one saw this coming, or we would have gotten some help," Lutz said. "They were wonderful people, just salt of the earth kind of people."

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