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BY JEFF TRENTLY
October 14, 2007
The strain of serving as a caregiver for ailing spouse took a toll, son says
EWING — An 82-year-old man who shot his 80-year-old wife to death Friday in a nursing home and then turned the gun on himself had been released from a mental health center just one day earlier.
“They said he was doing better, that they didn’t think he was a danger to himself or anyone else,” his son, Neil Gervon, said yesterday. “They let him out Thursday and Friday he did this.”
William Gervon had been treated for depression for eight days at the Hampton Behavioral Health Center in Westampton before being released Thursday. The next day, he took a gun into the nursing home where his wife was staying, held the gun to her head and pulled the trigger.
Florence Gervon, debilitated and in failing health from a recent stroke, died instantly.
William Gervon, who put the barrel of the gun into his own mouth and pulled the trigger after shooting his wife of 59 years, was in critical condition last night at Capital Health System at Fuld hospital, officials said.
“He’s hanging by a thread,” Neil Gervon said. “He’s not aware. His brain function is nil.”
Neil Gervon said he believed his father acted out of love when he pulled the trigger.
“He did it for her,” he said. “She wouldn’t want to live that way. Even though he shouldn’t have done it, it was in his part out of love for her.”
Florence Gervon had been in bad health since a June 24 stroke left her with heart problems. An earlier stroke, in May 1998, had left her temporarily paralyzed on her right side.
William Gervon shot his wife around 5:20 p.m. Friday in the bathroom of Florence’s room at CareOne at Ewing, a private nursing home on Parkway Avenue, officials said.
I talked to him Friday at 4,” Neil Gervon said. “He said, ‘I’m going to see Mom.’ You know what happened at 5:20.”
Neil Gervon said his mother’s condition had worsened in recent weeks. He last saw her Wednesday, two days before her death.
“She was depressed and not communicating. She knew me, said hello, but that was it,” he said.
Neil Gervon’s sister, Sherida, visited their mother Thursday night. William Gervon saw his wife that night too.
“My father seemed okay then, when I talked to him,” Neil Gervon said.
But something happened the next day, he said.
“My best guess is he went back to see her, felt he couldn’t take it, that she couldn’t live that way and he did what he did.
“Somewhere along the way he planned this out. Whether it was a long-term plan, I don’t know,” he said.
Florence Gervon’s heart had problems pumping blood and medication wasn’t helping. A recent surgery on her intestines made matters even worse, Neil Gervon said.
The stroke had left her unable to eat.
You had to put food in her mouth, tell her to chew and swallow,” he said. “Her cognitive skills were off. She was in bed and needed help to get into a chair or go to the restroom. She wasn’t getting much better.”
William Gervon had been caring for his wife since her first stroke in 1998.
“He did all the cooking and cleaning for 10 years. He was a dutiful husband,” Neil Gervon said.
But the strain of serving as his wife’s caregiver took a toll, he said.
William Gervon had visited his wife three or four times a day for more than three months, first at St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center in Lawrence, where she stayed just after her stroke, and then at CareOne.
By Oct. 2, the strain had become too much, Neil Gervon said.
William called his son that day very depressed.
“He ended up at the Helene Fuld Crisis Center,” Neil Gervon said.
It was then William was sent to Hampton Behavioral Health Center, where he received therapy and antidepressants for eight days. He was still taking the antidepressants when he killed his wife, Neil Gervon said.
“It seemed at the time he was calm, on an even keel. Maybe he snapped when he saw her? Or planned it out earlier? It’s impossible to know what was in his head,” Neil said.
Neighbors who knew the Gervons said they seemed like a perfect couple.
“Very nice people,” said Catherine Comiskey, who lived four houses down from the Gervons on Fireside Avenue in Ewing. “I’ve been here 54 years. They were here just as long.”
Comiskey didn’t know about Florence Gervon’s recent health problems, but did notice the house seemed empty.
“The house looked so deserted, gloomy,” she said.
One neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said he has known the couple for decades. He said he grew up on Fireside Avenue and was friends with the Gervons’ children.
“He was very outgoing. He was like the mayor of the neighborhood,” the man said. “You never really saw her. Even when we were younger, we didn’t see much of her.”
The man, now in his early 50s, described the couple as nice neighbors. At one point, years ago, the Gervons bought the house next door to them for Florence Gervon’s aging parents.
“They took care of them until they died,” he said.
The man has maintained a friendship with William Gervon and said he saw nothing in the elder man’s behavior recently to indicate anything was amiss.
“This is completely out of character,” he said. “I don’t know, lately he’s been leaving his recycling buckets in the street for days after pickup and I’ve been bringing them in for him. Maybe he wasn’t functioning too well physically. Maybe she was failing and he was failing and maybe he thought it was the end of the line for both of them.”
Officials from the Mercer County Prosecutors Office searched the Gervon house and William Gervon’s car Friday night, spokesman Angelo Onofri said.
Onofri wouldn’t detail what items had been seized.
Times reporter Lisa Coryell contributed to this story. Contact Jeff Trently at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Husband in nursing home shooting dies — (
on October 16, 2007 at 2:20 PM, updated October 16, 2007 at 5:57 PM
TRENTON — William Gervon, the 82-year-old man whom authorities said shot his 80-year-old wife to death Friday evening in a Ewing nursing home before shooting himself, died at Capital Health System at Fuld hospital, a hospital official confirmed Tuesday.
His alleged suicide attempt had put him in the hospital in critical condition.
Gervon’s wife of 59 years, Florence Gervon, had been in failing health from a recent stroke and was staying at CareOne at Ewing, a private nursing home on Parkway Avenue, when William Gervone shot her in a bathroom there.
William Gervon had been treated for depression and was only released from Hampton Behavioral Health Center in Westampton the day before the shooting.
Their son, Neil Gervon, said the shooting was an act of love, and that injuries his father sustained from shooting himself in the mouth had left him hanging by a thread, without brain function, according to a report published in The Times on Sunday.