86-year-old's charge in wife's death is reduced to assisted suicide

Gary Freiberg, left, was among several friends of George Taylor who came to court Thursday for the 86-year-old's arraignment.
Gary Freiberg, left, was among several friends of George Taylor who came to court Thursday for the 86-year-old's arraignment.

An 86-year-old Los Osos man told a park ranger he was extremely depressed when he and his wife agreed to a suicide pact, according to a Sheriff’s Office report obtained by The Tribune. But while his wife committed suicide, the man’s efforts to take his own life failed.

George Leigh Taylor was originally charged with the murder of his 81-year-old wife, Gewynn Marian Taylor. But the District Attorney’s Office changed that Thursday to a charge of assisted suicide.

With more than 20 supporters looking on, Taylor appeared in Superior Court for an arraignment Thursday. Judge Ginger Garrett continued the arraignment to Dec. 19 and ruled that he can be released to his daughter if he gets counseling immediately. He will be evaluated by mental health professionals Friday.

The unusual case began Monday when, according to the sheriff’s report, the following occurred:

Around 11:30 p.m., a state park ranger stopped Taylor’s Toyota Corolla as it drove through Montaña de Oro State Park. The ranger asked Taylor to roll down his window, but instead Taylor, who seemed disoriented, opened the door.

“You can take me in now, but I want to talk to my daughter first,” Taylor said.

Seeing a figure in the back seat, the ranger asked if Taylor had a mannequin. Taylor said, “No, that’s my wife.” When the ranger asked if she was all right, Taylor responded, “No, she is dead. She has been dead since sunset.”

Gewynn Taylor had a plastic bag covering her head, which was cinched closed around the neck. When the ranger asked George Taylor, “Did you do this?” Taylor responded, “Yes, I did it. We had a pact. A suicide pact.”

Taylor told the ranger he had cut his own wrists, neck and body and tried to suffocate himself, but wasn’t able to take his life. When the ranger asked if he or his wife had been ill, Taylor said they were both healthy. Then he added that he had been extremely depressed.

The rarely enforced assisted suicide law in California dates to the 19th century and provides that anyone who "deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide" is guilty of a felony, punishable by a maximum of three years in prison.

Taylor’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, called it a highly unusual case. In court, he said, Taylor is “a sweet, young man of 86” with a spotless record.

In court, Taylor nodded to the crowd of supporters, his neck still showing cuts and bruising. Among those in court were his daughter, who promised to move in with her father and stay with him 24 hours a day as he gets counseling.

He is set to appear in court again Dec. 19 to enter a plea to the assisted-suicide charge.

Outside the courtroom, Funke-Bilu said Taylor was a good person in a tragic situation. “This is a small town,” he said. “We know who the good people are. And he’s a good person.”

His wife, Funke-Bilu said, was “the love of his life.”

One of Taylor’s other supporters, Gary Freiberg, said he recently saw the couple “nuzzling each other” at a Los Osos CSD meeting, prompting him to tell them, “Go get a room.”

As friends anticipated charges would be filed, they networked with each other to find out when Taylor might appear in court. Some of them waited around the courthouse all day.

Just before Taylor’s 2:30 hearing, Julie Tacker, another friend, said Taylor was a “standup guy. And Gewynn was a rival for Miss Etiquette. She was a proper lady.”

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