The Washington Post
and a fair number of other newspapers
published this Associated Press story
about the U*U community's answer to Dr. Kevorkian. . . I wonder if this recent news item will show up on the UUA's Unitarians Universalists in the Media
Minister Faces Extradition Over Suicide
By TOM BREEN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 27, 2007; 11:13 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A one-time Unitarian minister who helped a Dublin woman kill herself in 2002 faces extradition to Ireland after being taken into custody on a federal arrest warrant.
George Exoo was arrested Monday in West Virginia and was being held at a jail near his Beckley home. Irish authorities have sought his extradition since he admitted assisting in the suicide of Dublin woman Rosemary Toole at her home.
Five years ago, Exoo told reporters that he and his live-in companion, Thomas McGurrin, sat with Toole as she swallowed crushed pills, covered her head with a plastic bag and breathed helium. He has said he gave her advice on how to commit suicide and helped her practice putting the bag over her head.
Exoo, 64, has said Toole convinced him she had an incurable brain disorder. According to court papers filed by federal prosecutors, however, Irish authorities contend Toole was not terminally ill, but suffered from depression and from a condition that caused swelling in her head.
Exoo was scheduled to attend a bond hearing Friday, according to his lawyer Edward Weis. Weis declined to comment on the case and would not say whether Exoo plans to fight the extradition.
Not Dead Yet, a U.S. disability rights group opposed to legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, said it was pleasantly surprised by the news of Exoo's incarceration. The group had been pushing for his extradition for years, according to research analyst Stephen Drake, and feared it wouldn't happen.
Drake said he is not aware of any other case in which the U.S. has extradited someone in an assisted suicide case. Toole's death was the first known assisted suicide in Ireland, where it has been illegal since 1993.
The Irish government issued an arrest warrant in 2004, and the U.S. State Department passed it along to prosecutors here the same year. Federal prosecutors did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the timing of Exoo's arrest.
McGurrin has not been arrested and is not named in the criminal complaint. His last listed address in Beckley has a disconnected phone number.
Exoo was once a minister at the New River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Beckley, but has not been affiliated with it for several years, according to Kelly Kaufman, the current minister. Kaufman didn't say why he left, but did say he resigned his position after negotiating with the fellowship.
Exoo was contacted by Toole because at the time he ran Compassionate Chaplaincy, a tax-exempt organization he founded that counseled people seeking to commit suicide.
The criminal complaint against Exoo including the transcript of an interview he gave Irish journalist Declan White. In it, he claimed to have helped numerous people commit suicide, and said he believed God endorsed his work.
"If I thought I was doing anything that was condemned by the other side, namely God and the angels, or whatever it is on the other side, I would not do what I am doing," Exoo said, according to the transcript.
He also claimed most of those who had died communicated with him from beyond the grave, including Toole. "When we were in Amsterdam a man brushed past us with two dozen roses and with the aroma I knew it was Rosemary," he said.
Exoo also acknowledged in the interview that he received $2,500 from Toole.
Here is the local take on the story from The Beckley Register Herald
There may be some interesting letters to the editor following this story up.
Ex-minister faces court hearing in assisted suicide case
By Matthew Hill
A detention hearing in the case of a former Beckley Unitarian minister who allegedly assisted a woman with her suicide in Ireland — the country’s first known assisted suicide — is scheduled for Friday in U.S. District Court in Beckley.
George Exoo, 64, will appear for what is the federal government’s version of a bond hearing at 2:30 p.m., court spokesperson Tracy Dorsey-Chapman said. Ireland is seeking Exoo’s extradition. He is being held at Southern Regional Jail following the successful execution of an arrest warrant Monday.
According to documents filed in federal court last Friday, the complaint and arrest warrant were ordered sealed until the warrant could be served on Exoo.
Rosemary Toole, 49, reportedly overdosed on drugs and breathed helium through a plastic bag until she died on Jan. 25, 2002, in Dublin. Investigators believe Exoo was paid $6,000 to participate in the woman’s death. Toole is said to have spent more than a year contacting right-to-die representatives.
Exoo has denied assisting in the suicide, but has admitted he was present when the woman ended her life.
In February 2002, Exoo told The Register-Herald that Toole had contacted a right-to-die organization in Canada that networks with other self-exit groups such as the Hemlock Society and the Compassionate Chaplaincy, to which Exoo belongs.
Her search eventually led her to Beckley, where Exoo served as minister at the New River Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship.
Exoo said he and his live-in companion, Thomas McGurrin, spent a couple of days visiting sites in Ireland before her suicide and were with Toole when she died. Exoo claimed he was paid $1,250 prior to leaving for Ireland, and another $1,250 when he and McGurrin arrived, for travel expenses.
Exoo admits to having been present at more than 100 suicides and said he did not concern himself about Ireland's predominantly Catholic stance against suicide.
Irish authorities have been involved from the inception of the case in keeping abreast of the American investigation.
Bryan O'Connell, an Irish reporter, said in 2002 that Exoo could face stiff penalties if convicted.
“Ireland does not use capital punishment, but the jails here are far different than those in the United States," said O’Connell, an Indiana native. “Jails here are those cold, stone Victorian jails with no bathroom facilities other than a bucket the prisoner is given to use and empty each day. A winter in a jail here can be a hard thing to endure.”
In Ireland, anyone caught “aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring the suicide of another” is guilty of a felony and can be jailed up to 14 years, according to a law enacted there in 1993.
O’Connell said Toole’s death was controversial because she was not known to be terminally ill. Irish media reported she had suffered bouts of mental illness and had been a patient at a mental hospital. Exoo and McGurrin reportedly stayed with Toole about half an hour after she died.
Exoo and McGurrin left Ireland and spent several days in the Netherlands before returning to Beckley. Exoo had been investigated previously by U.S. authorities for his involvement with the suicide of a woman in Sarasota, Fla., where police found no probable cause to arrest him.
Irish authorities began formally seeking Exoo’s extradition three years ago.
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