Four members of a Georgia-based right-to-die group are being charged for assisting an Apple Valley woman in her 2007 suicide.
Doreen Dunn was 57 at the time of her death. She had suffered from chronic pain caused by complications from an operation in 1996, according to Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.
Backstrom said Dunn's family members were not aware that she had committed suicide until three years after her death.
"Doreen Dunn's death was initially ruled as a death by natural causes. There was no evidence of suicide found in her home," Backstrom said. "However, a Georgia investigation on a different case in their state uncovered evidence to lead us to believe that Doreen Dunn had indeed committed suicide after consulting with an organization called the Final Exit Network.
The Dakota County Attorney's office alleges that four members of the group counseled Dunn on how to end her life, and that two group members were present when she killed herself with helium and a plastic bag.
A Dakota County Grand Jury indicted the group on four counts. The four individuals are facing an additional 13 charges.
"They're also charged not just with assisted-suicide, but with interference with a death scene," Backstrom said. "We're alleging that they removed evidence from the death scene, basically the evidence that the suicide actually took place, and destroyed that evidence."
Two of the group members, Lawrence Egbert of Maryland and Jerry Dincin of Highland Park, Ill., are each facing two felonies and two gross misdemeanors. Roberta Massey of Delaware faces two felonies and one gross misdemeanor. Thomas Goodwin of Florida is charged with one felony and one gross misdemeanor.
The lawyer representing the network did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a post on the group's website last week about the indictments described it as "an attack on the right-to-die movement," which Backstrom denied on Monday.
Backstrom said he expects the group will challenge the constitutionality of Minnesota's law against assisting suicides.
"Under Minnesota law our statutes are presumed to be constitutional until an appellate court rules otherwise," Backstrom said. "We are pursuing this prosecution under a law we certainly believe is constitutional."
The charged members of the group will need to travel to Minnesota for a first court appearance, which will be arranged within the month.