Skip to Content

‘People Should Kill You, If It Becomes Too Much’

Interlocked hands


By , The Cut

This weekend, the New York Times ran a long piece about a 79-year-old man named Richard Shaver who murdered his 80-year-old wife, Alma, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and then killed himself. In a storytelling decision that has infuriated disability-rights activists, the piece was written not as a violent-crime story, but as a poignant romance. As the story’s writer, Corina Knoll, tweeted: “A man shot his wife with Alzheimer’s, then killed himself. I wanted to understand their story. Turns out, it was one of love.”

The piece took readers through the Shavers’ love story, describing how their courtship began at a high-school dance in 1956 and lasted for over 60 years, during which time they raised three daughters. “They were absolutely soul mates — crazy about each other,” says a neighbor quoted in the piece. After Alma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their daughters tried to intervene, but, as they told the Times, Richard insisted he was “taking care of it” and refused to take their advice or assistance. This June, he crawled into bed while she was sleeping and shot her, then himself.

The Shavers’ children seem eager to read their father’s act as one of tenderness, which may have affected the way Knoll framed the story. “So common, yet so personally cruel — [dementia] comes with no road map for those tending to the afflicted,” she writes. The piece doesn’t make it clear whether Alma might have once made an end-of-life plan with her husband, and it could be impossible to know now that both parties are dead. But the critics who found fault with the piece say the way the story is told exemplifies everything wrong with how the media covers crimes against disabled people.

Read the full article here: