An Arizona man was sentenced to probation after shooting his wife in the head to save her from a long and painful death.

George Sanders, 86, faced up to 12 years in prison on manslaughter charges after his wife Virginia, 81, asked her husband to shoot her.

Virginia, known as Ginger, suffered from multiple sclerosis and just days before the killing had been diagnosed with gangrene on her foot.

She faced spending the rest of her life in a nursing home.

"It was just the last straw," Sanders said in a videotaped interview shortly after the shooting.

"She didn't want to go to that hospital ... start cutting her toes off."

He said his wife begged him to kill her. "I said, 'I can't do it honey,'" he told the detective. "She says, 'Yes you can.'"

Sanders told detectives he wrapped a gun in a towel and shot his wife in the head. She died two days later.

Both the defense and the prosecutors in the case agreed the shooting was a mercy killing.

"My grandfather lived to love my grandmother, to serve and to make her feel as happy as he could every moment of their life," Sanders' grandson, Grant, told the judge in a Phoenix courtroom.

"I truly believe that the pain had become too much for my grandmother to bear," he said.

During Virginia's long illness, George was her primary caregiver, doing the cleaning, laundry and even putting her makeup on.

"I fully believe that the doctor's visits, the appointments, the medical phone calls and the awaiting hospital bed led to the decision that my parents made together," George's son Steve Sanders said.

"I do not fault my father."

Judge John Ditsworth sentenced Sanders to two years of unsupervised probation, saying his decision "tempers justice with mercy."

"It is very clear that he will never forget that his actions ended the life of his wife," Ditsworth said.

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