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Doc Who Killed Ill Wife Commits Suicide

BY ANDREW STRICKLER AND ANN GIVENS | newsday.com

December 2, 2008

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One week after admitting he killed his terminally ill wife in a failed suicide pact, a radiologist from Flower Hill was found dead Tuesday morning of an apparent suicide, Nassau police said.

Officers discovered the body of Dr. Rajasekar Sham, 68, at his Fernwood Lane home at 11:19 a.m., police said. No further details were immediately available.

Last Tuesday, Sham pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Lucila Sham, 69, and was sentenced to probation and psychological counseling.

When it was clear that Lucila Sham was going to die from the cancer that consumed her body, she and her husband of 40 years made a pact: They would settle their affairs, and then they would die together.

But three things happened that they did not expect. First, Lucila, 69, was too weak to cut her wrists, and begged her husband to do it for her. Next, her husband cut his own wrists, throat and abdomen, but he did not die. And finally, when police found the radiologist unconscious but still alive in the couple's Flower Hill bathroom, they charged him with his wife's murder.

Nassau County Judge David Sullivan, with the consent of prosecutors, agreed not to send Sham to prison for assisting in his wife's suicide.

Sham, a slight man with a shaved head, did not comment as he was wheeled out of a Mineola courtroom Tuesday.

"Jail or a prolonged legal process would serve no meaningful purpose in this case," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said last week in a statement. "The only effect his incarceration would have is on the taxpayers of this county having to foot the bill for someone who is no danger to our residents."

Sham's lawyer, James O'Rourke of Hauppauge, said the couple, who had no children or other living relatives, were inseparable. Lucila worked in her husband's Queens office, and the two shared a single car - they hardly ever left home without one another, O'Rourke said.

Recently, Lucila had stopped receiving medical treatment for her multiple-source terminal cancer, prosecutors said.

"It's not that he failed to love, but that he loved too well," O'Rourke said, paraphrasing William Shakespeare's "Othello."

"She begged him repeatedly to assist her in her suicide and the doctor, in a love that was more than a love, agreed."

Prosecutors said the couple was meticulous in planning for their deaths.

They called a lawyer whom they had used once, told him about their suicide pact and asked for his help settling their affairs, Rice spokesman Eric Phillips said.

They updated their wills, leaving their money to Rajasekar Sham's alma mater, the University of Madras in India, and to the Nature Conservancy's South Fork- Shelter Island chapter, Phillips said. They stopped service to their cell phones, paid their heating and electric bills, prepaid their 2008 taxes and even sent money - including tips - to their housekeepers at their second home in South Palm Beach, Fla. They left their attorney with extra stamps to settle their outstanding bills.

With the plan in place, the two asked their lawyer, whose name was not released, to call their Flower Hill home every day. On the day they did not answer, he was to call police, prosecutors said.

On Nov. 11, the Shams' phone rang and rang.

The lawyer drove to their home from his Suffolk County office, called police, then let them in using a garage door code that the couple had given him in advance.

Police found them together in a bathroom in pools of their own blood. Rajasekar Sham was within minutes of bleeding to death, prosecutors said.

Last week O'Rourke said his client was still fragile.

"He says he was kept alive by a more powerful force than himself," O'Rourke said, "and that perhaps that means that his work here is not done."