Originally published on Advocate.com September 12 2003 12:00 AM ET
A Beaverton, Ore., man was sentenced this week to almost 10 years in prison for orchestrating the suicide of his lover. Oscar Duenas, 52, is the first person prosecuted in Oregon for assisting in a suicide. Although Oregon is the only state in the nation that allows physician-assisted suicide, aiding a suicide outside the law is punishable as second-degree manslaughter under the state's criminal code.
In August, Duenas was convicted of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and assault in Hobert Muir's death. He also was convicted of animal abuse for strangling the couple's dog. Duenas claimed Muir's death was part of a suicide pact the two had made but that his own attempt at suicide had failed.
Hotel workers found the couple, who overdosed on pills, lying unconscious in a Beaverton hotel on December 2. As Duenas recovered, Muir's organs began failing. Muir, 73, died December 19 when he was taken off life support.
Senior deputy district attorney Jim Fun said he chose to prosecute Duenas because of his history of physically abusing Muir. In August 2000, Muir told police that Duenas physically abused him because he
did not believe Muir trusted him. Authorities charged Duenas with fourth-degree assault, but he never showed up for his court hearing. In May 2002 police arrested Duenas for abusing Muir, who told them Duenas had bound him with a lamp cord, dragged him about the house, and walked on him with his boots. Duenas was convicted of fourth-degree assault for both incidents and was ordered not to have contact with Muir.
At Tuesday's sentencing, Fun told the court that the Duenas case showed that domestic violence affects all people in society, including those in same-sex relationships and the elderly. Fun said Duenas did not attempt to assist Muir in killing himself out of altruism but because of his "antisocial personality."
Defense attorney Greg Scholl said the suicide was a mutual decision that marked the end of a stormy relationship between the two men. "It was not an intentional diabolical plot," he said.
Duenas told the court that his actions were guided by love. "I miss Bert, and I love him very much," Duenas said.