Love, Money, or Mercy

One thing is certain: Roy Hagen killed his wife with a single blast from a 12-gauge shotgun. After that, the story gets a whole lot murkier.

Contrary to Hagen's own account of the early years of his marriage, DuWayne testified that he'd noticed Sheila's low energy as early as 1965, when the couple stayed with him and his wife before their wedding. "I would get up in the morning and go to work, come home at four o'clock, and Sheila would still be in bed and, like, five, five-thirty she would come out of her bedroom....She came with an extreme amount of medication. For [sic] what I understand, her first husband was a drug salesman and she had a lot of exposure to drugs." When the two couples went on a tour of Washington, D.C., for a long weekend in 1973, he added, "Sheila ended up staying in her room for the whole three-day period....Her feet hurt or there was always something wrong so she couldn't do anything."

After the move to Minnesota, Sheila's pains grew more pronounced. She had been forced to stop taking the cortisone because it was affecting her immune system, and none of the other medications seemed to be as effective. Hundreds of miles removed from her friends and with Roy off at work, her loneliness exacerbated her misery. By 1991 the strain was beginning to get to Hagen, who sought treatment for depression and wore a medicinal patch to help ward off debilitating cluster headaches. After breaking off with his brother, he took menial sales jobs, first at Target, then Menards. He also became involved in his local American Legion, eventually serving as post historian and, for a time, post commander.

The spring of 1994 brought a rare bright spot. The Hagens had been unable to find a local church where they felt comfortable. But that changed when they attended Easter services that year at Union Congregational. They subsequently became active and popular members of the church, with Hagen serving on the memorial committee and the board of trustees and Sheila participating on the deaconite board and flashing some of her old social élan on behalf of the growth and membership committee.

On December 6 of that year, however, Sheila received news that her son by her first marriage had died in Virginia of a drug overdose. This plunged her into a dreadful mixture of guilt and anger at Hagen for coaxing her to Minnesota. "She thought if we wouldn't have come up here that she would have seen this coming and she could have interceded," Hagen said in court, adding, "I don't see where she could have done anything if she would have been there."

When Union Congregational pastor Patricia Greeves was asked in court whether Hagen was supportive of his wife during her ordeal, she replied, "She would not have survived without him. He made the arrangements. He was the go-between with the mortuary. He went back to Virginia and brought back things. Roy protected Sheila in a lot of ways in that time."

After her son died, Hagen testified, Sheila's condition got "drastically worse." She went through cycles of extreme pain that would have them visiting doctors and clinics throughout the state, with precious little relief or even a reliable diagnosis. Eventually Sheila was told she had polymyalgia rheumatica, a fairly common form of arthritis among senior citizens, to go with an earlier finding of fibromyalgia, an inflammation of the nerve endings that can't be identified as a medical certainty even by autopsy but is considered an extremely uncomfortable (albeit nonfatal) condition best treated by painkillers and, in Sheila's case, muscle relaxants.

Describing a typical day, Hagen testified that he'd come home from work to find Sheila asleep or watching television on the couch. She'd have taken chicken out of the freezer to thaw but not have had the energy to cook it, or she'd leave a shirt half ironed. She'd cry and claim that she wasn't any good for him. Numerous times, he testified, she'd said she wanted to die. After the shooting, Hagen told a psychiatrist that sometimes Sheila would ask him to get down and pray with her for God to take her--something he refused to do.

Yet publicly Sheila put on a brave front. At Union Congregational she was almost universally regarded as a delightful person, renowned for her readings of Bible passages in her Scottish brogue. She'd knitted a cap for a member who was undergoing chemotherapy--no mean feat for someone suffering from chronic pain.

Aside from Roy, Greeves was one of the few people in Minnesota in whom Sheila would confide, to the point where Hagen would occasionally invite the pastor over to help buck Sheila up. "When Sheila's on, she's delightful, outgoing, very extroverted, with this great brogue and black wig, and...people were really taken to her," Greeves told police after the shooting. "Few people probably saw the down side. If somebody happened to run into it, they couldn't believe it was the same person. I had been with them in their home when she's down, and she can strike out and...just kind of be verbally abusive to everything and everyone." The abuse, Greeves added, was "not directed at Roy"; he would just "absorb" it. "I think he did carry a lot of guilt," she concluded. "More than he should have."

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