Arrests Made, Search Warrants Executed in Assisted Suicide Investigation into Final Exit Network

February 24, 2009

DECATUR - As result of an ongoing investigation into the Final Exit Network, agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested two people today in North Georgia for their involvement in the June 19, 2008 assisted suicide of a 58-year-old Cumming man.  Two others have been charged in Maryland in connection with their involvement in this death.

The GBI began its investigation into the Final Exit Network on June 30, 2008 at the request of the Cumming Police Department after the Forsyth County Coroner, a detective with Cumming PD and relatives of the deceased had suspicions that the death was an assisted suicide.

As part of the investigation, the GBI set up a sting operation today at a residence in Dawson County where an undercover GBI agent posed as a Final Exit Network member to obtain their assistance with his "suicide".    At this location, agents arrested Claire Blehr, 76, of Atlanta, and Thomas E. Goodwin, 63, of Punta Gorda, Florida and Kennesaw, Ga. 

In addition, authorities in Maryland, assisted by GBI agents, have arrested Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert, 81, of Baltimore.   Nicholas Alec Sheridan, 60, also of Baltimore,  has been charged but is not in custody.

All four have been charged on warrants out of Forsyth County with Assisted Suicide (Ga. Code 16-5-5), Tampering with Evidence (Ga. Code 16-10-94) and violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act (Ga. Code 16-14-4).    

The investigation revealed that the method used in the Cumming assisted suicide involved helium inhalation.    A brief summary of the final exit process follows: After paying $50 for membership in The Final Exit Network and going through an application process, the member is visited by an "Exit Guide" assigned to his case. During the visitations, the member is instructed to purchase two helium tanks of a specific size and brand and a specific type of hood known as an "exit bag".     On the day of the event, the member is visited by the "Exit Guide" and a "Senior Exit Guide".   The Senior Exit Guide instructs the member through the process. 

This assisted suicide process was confirmed during today's sting operation. After the member succumbs, all evidence is removed from the scene by the "guides" and discarded, as evidence indicated happened in the Cumming case.

Georgia Code 16-5-5 on Assisted Suicide reads in part:

"Any person who publicly advertises, offers, or holds himself or herself out as offering that he or she will intentionally and actively assist another person in the commission of suicide and commits any overt act to further that purpose is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years." 

Following the arrests, law enforcement in Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, and Montana began executing search warrants and conducting interviews in order to locate and obtain evidence relating to the investigation of the Final Exit Network.   GBI agents are in each of these states except Colorado to assist in this effort.

Other Law Enforcement Agencies participating in this investigation include:

Forsyth County District Attorney's Office
Dawson County Sheriff's Office
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Cumming Police Department
Michigan State Highway Patrol
St. Louis Police Department
Baltimore Police Department
Maricopa County Attorney, Arizona
Warren County Ohio Prosecutors Office
Aurora, Colorado Police Department

Also providing assistance are the Phoenix Arizona Police Department, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the Forsyth County Coroner and the GBI Medical Examiner's Office. 

As the investigation continues, other arrests are possible.

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Contact Information: 
John Bankhead - 404-270-8330