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Petaluma Man Faces Trial For Aiding Painkiller-Addicted Wife's Suicide

BODEGA BAY (CBS SF) -- A Petaluma man was held over for trial Tuesday afternoon for voluntary manslaughter and for helping his wife hang herself outside a Bodega Bay motel in January.

David Clement, 65, was living in San Rafael while his wife Debra Bales, 52, was living with her mother in Petaluma. When he lost his housing he moved to a Petaluma motel.

He and Bales went to The Inn of the Tides in Bodega Bay where Bales wanted to commit suicide, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Bales was taking several strong medications for chronic pain, including fentanyl, for 18 years, Clement's attorney Scott Fishman said.  Clement married Bales so she could be on his medical insurance, but when Clement lost his job and insurance Bales lost access to her pain medication because Medicare would not pay for it, Fishman said.

In CD and video recordings played in court, Clement told Sonoma County sheriff's officials he agreed to help Bales commit suicide because she was determined to end her life.

Among the options were walking into the Pacific Ocean with backpacks containing rocks or barbells, covering Bales' nose and mouth with duct tape and smothering her with a pillow. All of them were impossible, Clements told authorities.

They allegedly decided on hanging. Bales allegedly tied a rope around her neck and Clements said he tied the other end around a tree limb in a parking lot near the inn. Bales was sitting on a board, and before he knew it she jumped, Clement told the sheriff's investigators.

"The whole thing was, I didn't want her to be alone," Clement told the investigators.

In arguing against holding Clement to answer for charges of voluntary manslaughter and abetting or aiding a suicide, Fishman said the case is a "massive, long-term, systematic failure of the health care system."

Fishman said Bales was asked to suddenly stop her medications and she felt she had no life worth living. Clement "acted out of compassion and devotion to someone he knew for a long time and didn't want to be alone in her final solution," Fishman said.

Frank Antonini, co-defense counsel, asked Judge Robert LaForge to dismiss the voluntary manslaughter charge, saying California removed assisting a suicide from the homicide law, and a defendant can't be charged with both offenses.

But Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner argued Clement should face both charges. He said Clement consistently aided Bales' suicide by selecting and purchasing the barbell weights, paying for the motel room and binding Bales to a bed when he tried to smother her with duct tape and a pillow.

"He was more than lending support," Waner said.

LaForge agreed and ruled Clement was actively participating in everything to warrant both charges.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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