Garrett Harris 10:11 p.m., May 23
Going Out on a High Note?
Family of Man Who Committed Suicide Using La Mesa Woman's "Exit Kit" Suing for "Pain and Suffering Caused By the Unintentionally Hilarious Death of a Loved One by Helium Inhalation"
Plaintiff's attorney: "Dignified death, my foot. I've seen more dignity on the Three Stooges."
MANNING THE BALLOON MACHINE AT PARTY CITY IN EL CAJON — The saga of the Gruesome Grandma of Grossmont just took a turn for the blackly humorous, thanks to an unemployed technical writer and an Apple computer's built-in webcam.
First, a little background: La Mesa grandmother Sharlotte Hydorn was arrested in late May in connection with the death of 29-year-old Poway man Rick Krepeski, after he purchased one of her homemade "exit kits" and used it to end his life. Hydorn, who sells the kits at $60 a pop, is the sole member of GLADD (Glorious Life And Dignified Death), an organization dedicated to helping the terminally ill to see themselves out of this world on their own terms. The kit consists of a plastic bag that seals around the neck and is equipped with a rubber tube that may be hooked up to a helium tank.
Straight helium is lethal after just a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, it's also hysterical after just a few seconds, and after deciding to commit suicide, Krepeski made the perhaps doubly regrettable decision to record his demise on his computer in a kind of video suicide note. When his horrified family viewed the video in an attempt to understand why their beloved son and brother would make this terrible decision (Krepeski was not terminally ill), they soon found themselves subjected to the nightmarish experience of howling with laughter at the death of a loved one.
"The past few years have been agony for me," began Krepeski, sounding not unlike Theodore from Alvin & the Chipmunks. "Ever since Diana broke up with me and I got laid off from work, I've been so depressed and nothing seems to help. Whoa, dizzy."
"God help me — it was the 'whoa' that did it," said Krepeski's mother Lydia. "His voice was already high as a kite, but it must have jumped another half-octave right there, and I just lost it. 'Whoa. Dizzy.' I just wanted to scream at the computer screen, 'No shit, Sherlock!' But I was laughing too hard to speak. I mean, I literally almost die... oh, God."
"I'm so confused," confessed Krepeski's brother Mike. "I mean, if this were anybody else, I'd be slapping this up on YouTube and forwarding it to my friends. At one point, when he's going on about how it's not our fault and that he knows we love him and that he's sorry, he sounds just like Cartman from South Park. What am I supposed to do with that? So epic, and yet so tragic."
"I loved my son," concluded Krepeski's father John, his jaw clenched in an effort to stifle the chuckles welling up from within. "He had so much potential — this video just confirms that. It's the tears of the clown to the nth degree. Andy Kaufman, eat your heart out. But, funny or not, you can bet your ass I'm going to make that old lady pay for what she did."
The civil case will not take place until after Hydorn's criminal trial, and there are some who wonder if the 91-year-old will even be around long enough to face justice. "It's probably just as well," admitted one San Diego judge, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I doubt we could ever get a jury that could keep a straight face during presentation of evidence."
Pictured above (wearing hat): Sharlotte Hydorn