Man Charged With Wife’s Murder After Suicide Pact

If convicted, he could face up to life in prison

FARGO, N.D. — A Fargo man has been charged with the murder of his wife after the couple made a suicide pact.

Louis and Ila Averson, an elderly couple in poor health, planned to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning. When that didn’t work, Louis shot Ila in the heart and then shot himself. He is now being treated for his injuries in the hospital.

In an uncommon move, He was arraigned in his hospital room Tuesday afternoon.

Cass County prosecutor Tanya Johnson Martinez says a person being of a certain age doesn’t necessarily influence a decision on what charge is filed, but the impact on someone’s age might have on their mental health and cognitive ability might have an impact.

Louis Averson acknowleged he understood his rights and the charge when asked by Judge Frank Racek during the arraignment and as the hearing ended Louis spoke to the judge, telling him “whatever you gotta do, do it, I’m staying here and that’s it.”

“What the state does is looks at the law that has been enacted by the legislature. We look at the circumstances of the case and make the appropriate charging decision.  Someone being of a certain age wouldn’t necessarily be a factor, but the impact someone’s age might have on their mental health and cognitive ability certainly might have an impact,” Tanya Johnson Martinez, an attorney with Cass County, said.

If Averson is convicted, he could face up to life in prison. He was arraigned with afternoon from his hospital bed.

One counselor, Chris Bietz, says seniors might be more at risk for depression because of the isolation they feel. They also might be less willing to seek help because they think there’s a stigma around mental health issues.

“The aging generation still has a lot of stigma attached to mental health, depression, anxiety. Finding people in the aging community who are willing to talk about it is more difficult,” she said.

Bietz says 20 percent of the elderly take their own lives.

“Suicide pacts are the promise between two people, this case an elderly couple who didn’t want to be the one left behind. There’s an isolation factor. Not wanting to be without their best friend, their life companion,” she said.

Neighbors say they believe Louis had Parkinson’s Disease, while Ila had routine dialysis treatments.

The prosecutor says this case is a rare one.

“I’ve been as this county office for ten years. I don’t recall a similar case like this with these facts involving an elderly couple,” Johnson Martinez said.

If you have older folks in your life, counselors encourage you to ask how they’re doing because they may be reluctant to seek help.

Categories: Crime, Local News, North Dakota News