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.

The greatest source of that guilt stemmed from the couple's move to Minnesota. More than anything, Sheila wanted to go back to Virginia, and Hagen had to constantly remind her that they couldn't afford it. In fact, the Hagens had been hemorrhaging money ever since Roy left Metro Fork Lift. Even with health insurance, Sheila's medications and constant doctor's visits were a financial drain. There were also occasional vacation trips, and Sheila was, by all accounts, a clothes horse. ("If she would buy a coat she would buy three, one blue one, one yellow one, one gray one, all the same," DuWayne testified, adding that he counted 120 pairs of shoes when he cleaned out the closets after the shooting.) Hagen staunchly defended his wife's buying habits and the trips they took to get Sheila out of Minnesota, saying he liked the reaction she drew from people when she was feeling good and out with him in public.

But he compounded the situation with poor money management. Hagen's military pension paid $4,000 per month, and there was another $20,000 a year in social security. When he was hit with a bill for $18,000 in back taxes, he put it on their credit card; same thing with the Lincoln, which he bought after he totaled his other car in an accident in the summer of 1998. In a statement to police the day of the murder, Hagen claimed he and Sheila had run up $50,000 on fourteen credit cards over the past four years and held two mortgages on their house, for another $170,000. On the day he was arrested, Hagen was earning $8.75 an hour.

During his last eight years with Sheila, Hagen's depression came and went. More than once he broached the idea of suicide. In addition to a $200,000 life-insurance policy he already had on himself, he said in court, he took out two accidental-death policies that would have given Sheila another $160,000. (By contrast, there was no life-insurance payoff for Hagen in the event of Sheila's death.) With that, social security, and a portion of his air-force pension, he figured, Sheila could live in a healthcare center. "They could take care of her better than I could," he said. But Sheila got upset whenever Roy talked that way, telling him that she loved and needed him. "'I can't get along without you.' She always said that. 'What am I going to do if you die before me?' That was a constant fear of hers," Hagen claimed--to the point where she hid a .32 caliber pistol he kept in the house.

Martin Gee

For years the people with whom the Hagens had socialized the most--if only to go to Perkins for Sunday dinner after church--were retired army chaplain Bill Huntley and his wife Joyce. In December 1998 Joyce was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. She died the following year.

Nevertheless, to casual acquaintances Sheila Hagen seemed upbeat in the months before she was killed. A neighbor who attended a kitchen-gadget party with her in June 1999 later remarked that Sheila had told her she felt the best she had in years. And with good reason: Despite their financial difficulties, she and Roy had finally decided to move back to Virginia in the spring of 2000.

 

Sheila Hagen's final descent into pain lasted five and half days. When Roy came home from the millwork department at Menards on Thursday night, July 22, 1999, he found his wife in the worst shape he'd seen in some time. Friday night was even worse, yet when he begged to take her to the emergency room in Princeton, she demurred, saying she preferred to see her own doctor on Monday. Hagen had to work over the weekend, but the store was only five minutes from home, so he spent Saturday like a ping-pong ball, returning to the house on his lunch break to check on Sheila, going back to tell his boss he had to leave early, then arriving home to find her crying uncontrollably on the couch. After three hours, he demanded they go to Princeton.

Sheila was in such pain that Hagen had to help her put on her underwear. How embarrassing, Sheila wailed, what a way to live, a woman can't even put on her own panties, what kind of person am I? On the way to the hospital, Hagen would later testify, every bump in the road made her yell. "See what I mean?" she screamed at him: "I can't take care of myself so you can't die, you just can't die before I do."

In the previous day's mail, Hagen had received the result of a smokers' study he'd participated in at the Mayo Clinic, informing him that there were some problems with his lungs that required closer scrutiny. Mindful of the hundreds of thousands of cigarettes he'd inhaled during his life, he feared the worst. "Here's this woman who is screaming I can't die before she does and here I'm absolutely positive I've got lung cancer," he would testify, surmising that Sheila had somehow found the letter. Only much later would he discover that the spots on his lungs were not cancerous.

As Hagen told it, the trip to the emergency room was fruitless. Although Sheila was allergic to codeine, she was able to tolerate the levels in codeine-based Tylenol 3, but the doctors didn't have any on hand and she had little choice but to get a codeine injection for pain relief. Even after he was able to fill the Tylenol prescription during his lunch break on Sunday, Sheila wasn't improving. The next day, Monday, he again told his boss at Menards he wouldn't be in. Instead he took Sheila to her doctor, who, as he had many times before, supplemented the Tylenol with muscle relaxants. Given the severity of her pain, the doctor suggested Sheila come back for a CT scan of her lower body on Tuesday, Hagen's day off. On Tuesday night Sheila was in such pain that she went to bed at 8:30, in tears. Hagen followed her after the late news, and fell asleep to the sound of her moaning.

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