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Four charged in assisted suicide of local man
Suspects part of national group, authorities say
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Forsyth County News
The investigation into the suspicious death of a 58-year-old Cumming man eight months ago has resulted in charges against four people who authorities say helped him end his life.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested two of the suspects Wednesday in Dawson County in connection with the June 18 assisted suicide.

Claire Blehr, 76, of Atlanta and Thomas E. Goodwin, 63, of Florida and Kennesaw have been charged with assisted suicide, tampering with evidence and violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

They are being held in Dawson County, awaiting transfer to the Forsyth County Detention Center, authorities said.

Authorities in Maryland, with GBI assistance, have also charged Lawrence D. Egbert, 81, and Nicholas Alec Sheridan, 60, for the same offenses. Both are from Baltimore. Sheridan remains at large. More arrests are possible.

According to a GBI report issued Wednesday, the arrests were the result of an investigation into the Final Exit Network at the request of Cumming police. All four suspects are believed to be members of the organization.

The report said Forsyth County Coroner Lauren McDonald, Cumming Police Sgt. Scott Burgess and relatives of the man who died suspected assisted suicide. The man's name has not been released.

The GBI arrested Blehr and Goodwin as part of a sting operation at a home in Dawson County. An undercover GBI agent posed as a Final Exit Network member trying to get help from Blehr and Goodwin with his “suicide,” the report said.

Investigation revealed the method used in the Cumming assisted suicide involved helium inhalation. The report explained that after paying $50 and completing an application process for the network, a member is visited by an “exit guide.”

According to the report: “During the visitations, the member is instructed to purchase two helium tanks of a specific size and brand and a specific type of hood known as an ‘exit bag.’ On the day of the event, the member is visited by the ‘exit guide’ and a ‘senior exit guide,’ who takes the member through the process.”

The report said the process was confirmed through the sting operation. Once the member dies, the “guides” remove all evidence from the scene.

Georgia's assisted suicide law makes it a felony to "publicly advertise, offer, or hold himself or herself out as offering that he or she will intentionally and actively assist another person in the commission of suicide and commits an overt act to further that purpose."

A conviction could result in up to five years in prison.