He loved her, she begged him to kill her and now he's getting sent to prison for life
Joseph Schluter pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder in the death of Cindy Enger
When he shot her eight times in the head, Joseph Schluter was still very much in love with Cindy Enger but she'd begged him to do it for so long he finally wore down, said a prayer and pulled the trigger.
On a cellphone video taken just minutes before her death, both Schluter and Enger express their love for each other.
"I think we can all agree ... Mr. Schluter did this under a misguided sense of compassion," said prosecutor Mike Ewenson.
Schluter, 47, was originally charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to second-degree on Friday after a plea deal was arranged by Ewenson and defence lawyer Steve Wojick. The lawyers will propose a parole ineligibility period of 10 years.
"It is not a case of hate, it is not a case of revenge, it is not a case of jealousy, it is not a case of monetary gain," said Wojick in his sentencing submissions.
"Mr. Schluter's motivation was love, empathy and caring."
The victim and her killer dated many years ago but, when he was questioned by police, Schluter said Enger was "the best thing that ever happened to him," according to an agreed statement of facts read aloud Friday afternoon.
When she reached out in December 2015, the two began spending time together as friends and she began her campaign to convince Schluter to help her take her own life and to make it look like an unsolved homicide.
At first Schluter refused and tried to come up with ways to change her mind and remind her of happier times but she never wavered, telling him she was "suffering too much."
As Justice Alan Macleod handed down Schluter's sentence he noted the "devastating" effect the case has had on everyone involved.
"It's been a long time since I've seen and heard of the very serious crime of murder in such a unique and tragic set of circumstances
"It's just a very tragic, tragic event."
In the aftermath of her death, Schluter approached a CPS officer, Enger's ex and the executor of her will, asking about her son. Both men told investigators about Schluter's inquiries.
The lead homicide detective brought Schluter into CPS headquarters for questioning. He told Det. Lee Treit that he and Enger had dated "many years ago" but had recently been spending time together again. Schluter said Enger had complained about her pain issues and had attempted suicide once before.
Four days later, Schluter was back at CPS headquarters for a voluntary polygraph test. After the polygraph, which indicated Schluter likely knew more about Enger's death than he was letting on, he began confessing to his involvement in her death.
Schluter told police Enger wanted to die and had considered several ways to make that happen. She said she wanted her death "to go unsolved."
She asked Schluter on several occasions to help her.
Video made minutes before shooting
He first brought a gun to her house on Jan. 8, 2016, but he changed his mind and couldn't go through with it.
"Cindy became upset," according to the agreed statement of facts.
Over the coming weeks, Schluter ran errands for Enger and she continued to beg for his help in ending her life.
The two agreed to meet on Jan. 22, 2016. On his way there Schluter stopped to buy a movie ticket as an alibi.
Schluter arrived hoping Enger had changed her mind. He showed her an old journal hoping she would remember happier times but she refused to be swayed from her plan.
He then made a video on his cellphone.
On the video he can be heard telling Enger that he loves her. She replied that she loves him too.
Schluter tried once more to convince her to back away from the plan but she said again she was "suffering too much."
'He really sealed her fate'
They walked down to her laundry room, Schluter inserted ear plugs, said a prayer for forgiveness and as she knelt in front of him, he shot her in the head several times.
Schluter left the house, locked the door, drove to his father's rural home and burned his clothing and put the gun back where it belonged.
On Jan. 24, 2016, police were called to Enger's home after her ex-husband had tried for two days to drop off their son. When she didn't come to the door, he called police out of concern.
Enger left behind two sons, one who has autism and requires constant care.
Ewenson says even though he feels sympathetic, Schluter should have reached out for help instead of raising the gun to Enger's head.
"He was the only person who could have sought some assistance for her by all these wonderful groups of people we have in society that want to assist people who are suffering from mental health issues and by not reaching out, he really sealed her fate."