The Massillon man accused of attempted murder in the fatal shooting of his wife last weekend at Akron General Medical Center appeared confused by the preliminary charge, asking a judge during a brief court hearing: “Is she not dead?”
John E. Wise, 66, appeared in Akron Municipal Court on Tuesday morning by video from the county jail and questioned the judge about the charge as the hearing was about to conclude.
“I have one question, your honor,” Wise said, breathing deeply. “You said I was charged with attempted murder? Is she not dead?”
Judge Marvin Shapiro, who was sitting in for the assigned municipal arraignment judge, did not answer directly. He told Wise the court would ensure he has an attorney to answer all of his questions.
With that, the hearing ended.
Moments earlier, Wise told the judge his son was meeting with an attorney to represent him in the case.
Wise, who was in police custody for much of the previous day before being booked into the Summit County Jail, was dressed in red-striped jail clothes for Tuesday’s appearance. He wore glasses and had a full white beard and thinning white hair.
As he took his seat in the jail arraignment room — he had difficulty sitting down with his wrists and legs shackled — Wise looked confused from the start.
Shapiro set his bond at 10 percent of $1 million cash and scheduled his next municipal court appearance for 8:30 a.m. today.
He assured Wise that if he did not have an attorney by this morning, the court would appoint one for him.
Akron police Capt. Dan Zampelli said the department’s investigators suspect Wise shot his 65-year-old wife, Barbara, to end her suffering from a recent illness.
Barbara Wise was in her room on the third floor of Akron General’s intensive care unit Saturday night when the shooting occurred, Zampelli said.
The initial attempted murder charge was filed simply because Wise’s wife was still alive when he was arrested at the hospital, Zampelli said.
She was pronounced dead Sunday at 10:20 a.m.
Wise probably will face more serious charges after police investigators discuss the case with city and county prosecutors, Zampelli said.
Later Tuesday, the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide, saying Barbara Wise had died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Jim Gosky, the hospital’s spokesman, said no one else was injured or in danger in the immediate aftermath.
Wise initially was taken into custody by hospital security personnel, who then turned him over to Akron police when responding officers arrived.
‘Extremely devoted’ to wife
Terry Henderson, 58, of Massillon, who said he worked with Wise for 30 years at a local steel manufacturing plant, confirmed the initial police account that the root cause of the shooting was his devotion to his wife and her wishes if she ever became seriously ill.
“He was extremely devoted to his wife,” Henderson said in a Beacon Journal telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.
They were sweethearts since their teens, married for 45 years, he said.
On the Saturday before the shooting, Henderson said Barbara Wise suffered a triple cerebral aneurism at home, was taken to Akron General by helicopter and went directly into surgery.
She was in generally good health before being stricken, he said.
Henderson, who described himself as a close friend of Wise, retiring alongside him in December 2002, said he felt the couple had a pact to never allow each other to suffer.
“Once he thought she wasn’t coming back, and his health wasn’t good either,” Henderson said, “I think he was willing to sacrifice his own life [to end her suffering].”
Henderson said Wise took a taxi cab from Massillon to the hospital Saturday night.
“Now why do you think he did that? He didn’t want to implicate anybody. I don’t think John ever intended to leave that hospital. He intended to shoot his wife, I believe, and shoot himself, but the gun jammed and because of his medical condition he couldn’t get the gun unjammed,” Henderson said.
Wise suffered from neuropathy, a condition in which nerve damage causes numbness in the hands and feet, Henderson said.
He called his friend a “stoic individual,” a good man, a family man who often did charitable things for less fortunate people and animals.
“John was a family man. John was a man who was where he should be every day — at home with his wife,” Henderson said.
He said Wise often would go to the local McDonald’s to buy gift certificates in case he encountered anybody who was hungry or needed something to eat.
“That’s the kind of man John Wise was,” Henderson said.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.