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Hospitalized husband to judge after being arraigned on charge of murdering wife: 'Whatever you gotta do, do it'

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Cass County District Judge Frank Racek leaves Sanford Medical Center on Tuesday, June 5, after Louis Averson's arraignment in his hospital room. Averson is accused of fatally shooting his wife, Ila Averson, in their south Fargo garage. David Samson / The Forum2 / 3
Fargo police vehicles are parked at an apartment complex in the 300 Block of Prairiewood Circle South, where a woman was found dead in a garage with a man who had suffered a gunshot wound, early Saturday morning, June 2. WDAY-TV file photo3 / 3

FARGO – The case of an elderly Fargo couple, who authorities say entered into a suicide pact that ended with the husband shooting the wife, took a turn Tuesday, June 5, as new details emerged from court documents and, in an uncommon fashion, the husband was arraigned from his hospital room.

The husband, 85-year-old Louis Averson, told police he and his wife, Ila Averson, also 85, agreed to take their own lives and due to his wife’s poor health, they chose to run their car in a closed garage to attempt suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, according to court documents.

When the poisoning attempt failed, Louis Averson shot his wife in the chest before doing the same to himself, court documents stated. He survived the shooting and now faces a felony count of murder with intention.

At about 5:20 p.m. Tuesday, Louis Averson was arraigned in his hospital room at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo by Cass County District Judge Frank Racek. Hospital officials requested the room and floor number not be made public due to safety concerns.

Only one media member was allowed to attend the arraignment, and a Forum reporter was chosen to act as a press delegate and public witness after the newspaper requested access to the hearing.

Hospital hearings are rare, although they have happened in the past. In 2008, another Forum reporter was chosen to be a press delegate when Vincent Degidio Jr. was arraigned in his hospital room on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. Degidio, who had been shot by police, was later sentenced to nearly 29 years in prison.

.38 revolver and a will

About 10 p.m. Friday, June 1, the Aversons went into their garage at their apartment complex, and Louis Averson told police it was decided that after sitting in their white Toyota Avalon for five hours that he would shoot his wife in the chest and then shoot himself, court documents said.

He told police his wife knew he was going to shoot her and then himself. According to court documents, there is no evidence to contradict Louis Averson’s version of events.

During a search of the Averson’s home, police found the couple’s last will and testament on the dining room table and a bill from a law firm dated Friday, June 1.

Police were dispatched to the apartment complex at 331 Prairiewood Circle S. about 5:35 a.m. Saturday, June 2, when a passer-by told 911 dispatchers that a man, later identified as Louis Averson, was yelling for help from his garage. The passer-by told dispatchers the man said he had just shot his wife, later identified as Ila Averson.

Police found Louis Averson crawling to the garage door and his wife sitting in the car. Ila Averson was pronounced dead at the scene.

A .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and two spent casings were found in the car, court documents said, adding that the two bullets fired were also recovered from the car.

Louis Averson, who was taken to Sanford Medical Center, was placed under arrest, prosecutor Tanya Martinez said. He will be transferred to Cass County Jail should his condition improve, Martinez said.

Hospital hearing

It was a typical hospital room, well-lit with a window and television. The patient was on the hospital bed, hooked to a breathing tube. He was connected to machines that whizzed and hummed next to the bed.

What was atypical was the situation and the patient — it was a court arraignment for a man charged with murder.

The room was filled with people: Judge Racek, prosecutors Martinez and Leah Viste, and hospital staff stood by as Racek prepared to read Louis Averson his rights and charges Tuesday evening.  

Averson looked tall as he lay in the bed and had wiry, white hair with a dark gray mustache. He was in scrubs and wasn’t handcuffed.

He looked straight ahead, only turning his head to face the judge when he answered his questions.

When Racek finished reading Averson his rights and asked if he understood, he said “Yes.”

When Racek asked if he understood the charges brought against him, it was the same blunt response: “Yes.”

Racek appointed Averson a public defender, set a preliminary hearing for 9 a.m. July 11, and the arraignment ended.

As Racek was leaving the room, Averson sat up a little and pointed his hand toward Racek.

“Whatever you gotta do, do it. I’m staying here, and that’s it,” Averson said.

Then he settled back and went quiet.

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