86-year-old man gets life for murdering wife, 83

Jury didn't buy defense claim he was mentally ill

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BEND, Ore. — An 86-year-old Central Oregon man convicted of killing his wife of 39 years has been sentenced to life in prison.

Lawrence Loeffler was wheeled into the Bend courtroom Wednesday, where he’s been using a breathing device, and Judge A. Michael Adler handed down the sentence.

“Due to health, I don’t know how long you will live,” Adler told Loeffler. “But, I do know you will spend the rest of your life in prison.”

A jury deliberated an hour Tuesday before finding Loeffler guilty of murder in the killing of Betty Loeffler, 83, the Bend Bulletin reported.

The defense didn’t dispute that Loeffler shot his wife, didn’t call witnesses or offer evidence, and argued he should be found guilty of manslaughter, not murder.

His lawyers said Loeffler was acting under extreme emotional distress as a result of medical problems.

The prosecution said Loeffler acted cold-bloodedly and, under questioning, acted confused only when it was convenient to avoid talking about the killing.

Investigators gave this account of the morning of Jan. 28:

Loeffler went into the couple’s bedroom, retrieved a .25-caliber automatic pistol, concealing it in his pocket, and then he went to the kitchen where his wife was cooking.

As she walked past, he showed her the handgun and walked her to the open back door. On the deck, he shot her in the back of the head and, when she appeared to be alive, shot her again on the top of her head.

Defense attorney Matthew Matrisciano said his client was overreacting to simple problems, such as his wife picking up the wrong prescription and screwing the lid on the ketchup bottle too tight.

Loeffler believed he had to act first because his wife and stepdaughter were plotting to kill him, Matrisciano said.

In testimony, a Bend neurologist, Dr. Michael Bell, called Loeffler mentally stable, saying, “With extreme emotional distress, you’re barely able to feed yourself.”