A former California state lawmaker was charged Wednesday with providing a gun to his wife so she could kill herself last year.
Former Assemblyman Steve Clute was charged Thursday in Riverside County Superior Court with a felony count of aiding the suicide of his wife of about 40 years.
Pamela Clute, 66, a well-liked math professor and administrator at the University of California, Riverside, was found dead in the couple's Palm Desert home in August 2016. About 500 people attended a campus memorial service for her.
Top news of the day
Steve Clute, 69, a former Navy pilot who served as a Democrat in the state Assembly from 1982 to 1992, allegedly gave her the handgun she used to take her life, John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside district attorney, said Monday.
Defense lawyer Virginia Blumenthal said Clute would plead not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday. She said it was premature to discuss his defense, but noted he was not present "at the time gun went off."
Clute is devastated by the criminal charge that comes after more than a year of grieving.
"You have to understand that everyone around here knows how much in love he was with her," said Blumenthal, who was friends with the couple for four decades. "They were always together. They were very much in love with each other."
Pamela Clute had been suffering from agonizing back problems and medical treatment had failed to relieve pain that shot down her legs, Blumenthal said.
While California's assisted suicide law went into effect a couple months before Clute's death, the law only applies to terminally ill patients who are prescribed life-ending drugs by a physician. Clute wasn't terminally ill.
Blumenthal, who has practiced law for more than 40 years, said it was the first case of its kind she was aware of in Riverside County.
Hall said he wasn't immediately aware of whether the charge was unusual.