CARSON CITY — An elderly Nevada man who told police he shot his wife in a hospital to end her suffering will not face a potential death penalty for murder, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Carson City Assistant District Attorney Mark Krueger made the announcement at the onset of a brief initial court appearance for William Dresser.
“We are formally putting it on the record we are not seeking … the death penalty,” Krueger said.
Under Nevada law, at least two defense lawyers with a background in death penalty cases must be appointed to represent a defendant if the death penalty is a possibility and the person is not represented by a public defender.
Dresser, 88, was charged with “open murder” in the death of his wife of 63 years. Frances Dresser, 86, was shot once in the chest Sunday while in her room in the rehabilitation ward at Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center. She died three days later.
Krueger said open murder encompasses a range of crimes, from first-degree murder to manslaughter, and gives prosecutors flexibility to decide the severity of charges to pursue as more details of the case become available.
Justice of the Peace John Tatro on Thursday appointed state Public Defender Karin Kreizenbeck to represent Dresser and set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 7.
William Dresser, wearing a black and gray striped jail shirt, appeared before the judge via video conference from jail.
He sat quietly, his arms crossed over his chest, and showed little emotion. He responded, “Yes, your honor,” and “Yes, I do,” when asked by the judge if he understood the proceedings.
William Dresser remained jailed on $225,000 bail and was on suicide watch.
According to police, he told officers he intended to kill his wife and then kill himself. He brought a recently purchased small handgun to the hospital and four bullets — two intended for her, two for him — but his gun jammed after the first shot.
William Dresser was subdued by state Department of Corrections officers who were nearby and heard the shot, as well as hospital security, until deputies arrived.
According to an arrest report, William Dresser was “crying and mumbled words to the effect of, ‘I did not accomplish my goal.’”
Kreizenbeck said she visited with William Dresser in jail briefly before she was appointed by the court, but she had not yet spoken with him in length. When asked about his mental state and well-being she said, “He’s not in a good place, obviously.”
On Wednesday, Sheriff Ken Furlong said it was his understanding that Dresser had significant health problems.