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92-year-old woman who sold 'death kits' receives probation, fine

May 7, 2012 |  3:00 pm

HydornA 92-year-old El Cajon woman who sold "death kits" to help people commit suicide was sentenced Monday to five years' probation and a $1,000 fine after pleading guilty to failing to pay income tax on her profits.

As part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, Sharlotte Hydorn, a retired teacher, pledged to no longer sell the kits or advise people on how to commit suicide.

District Court Magistrate Bernard Skomal agreed to allow the Internal Revenue Service to determine how much Hydorn should pay in back taxes and penalties. Prosecutors have put the figure at $25,709.

Hydorn sold 1,300 of her kits, consisting of plastic bags that could be fastened tightly around a person's neck. Each bag had an opening to allow helium gas to fill the bag.

Federal prosecutors opted to charge Hydorn with failing to pay income tax rather than file a more difficult to prove charge of assisting someone in committing suicide.

Outside the federal courthouse in San Diego, Hydorn told reporters she still believes people should be assisted in ending their lives.

"I wanted people to die at home," she said.

According to court documents, Hydorn did not bother to cash many of the checks sent to her by people buying the kits, priced at $40 to $60. She did no advertising, but word of the kits spread quickly.

Hydorn said her interest in helping people end their suffering was the result of watching her husband suffer for two years in a hospital with colon cancer before dying.

"The cancer had gone to his brain," she said. "He wanted to go home, and I couldn't take him home."

In court, Hydorn was told she will need a special permit to enter Mexico to visit family members. She told reporters she has no intention of starting another death-kit business in Mexico.

"Oh, for goodness sake, at the age of 92, I'm not going to start a new business," she said. "I'm completely out of the business."

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-- Neal Putnam and Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Sharlotte Hydorn after FBI raid on her home. Credit: Marty Graham / Reuters

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