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Kentucky man claims shot wife in mercy killing, police skeptical

By Karen Brooks

(Reuters) - Kentucky authorities said Thursday they were skeptical of a man's claim that he had shot and killed his cancer-stricken wife because she had asked him to stop her pain "for good."

Ernest Chris Chumbley, a 48-year-old middle-school janitor, was arrested early Wednesday without incident after he called 911 and said he had shot his wife, Virginia Chumbley, police officials told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Virginia Chumbley, 44, was found shot three times in the face at the couple's home early Wednesday.

"She told me she wanted to end the pain," Chumbley told the local WKYT TV station in an interview late Wednesday from the Laurel County jail where he was being held, about 72 miles southeast of Lexington, Kentucky.

"I said, 'Jay,' I said, ‘All I've got is what the doctors gave you, the medicine, the pain pills.'" She said, 'No. I took enough of them. I want you to stop my pain for good,'" Chumbley said in the interview.

A local law enforcement official said he had concerns about the circumstances of Virginia Chumbley's death.

"I'm a long way from calling it a mercy killing," said Detective Charlie Loomis of the Laurel County Sheriff's Office. "I'm not going to swallow that right yet."

Virginia Chumbley had previously battled breast cancer that had spread to other areas of her body, Loomis said. She was in cancer treatment at the time of her death, though he couldn't say if it was still breast cancer.

According to the TV report, Chris Chumbley said his wife was suffering from breast cancer.

Chumbley remained in jail Thursday in lieu of $200,000 bond, Loomis said.

After responding to Chumbley's call early Wednesday, police found him waiting for them in the living room, near the front door, and arrested him without incident, Loomis said.

Loomis said he had not checked Chumbley's criminal record, but cited neighbors as having observed "issues" in the past between the couple, who have grown children and at least one grandchild who didn't live with them.

The two were married for more than 20 years, and Virginia Chumbley was not working at the time of her death, Loomis said.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

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