Weitzel Leaves Prison, Gets Married

Weitzel Leaves Prison, Gets Married

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Psychiatrist Robert Weitzel got out of prison Wednesday and was married Sunday.

Weitzel, who was acquitted last year in his retrial in the deaths of five elderly patients, married his longtime girlfriend Georgia Geerlings at the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City.

"Welcome to our own version of an Easter miracle," the Rev. Tom Goldsmith told the congregation. "There could be no more appropriate day for this wedding, a day filled with new life and endless possibilities."

Goldsmith referred only indirectly to Weitzel's previous legal troubles. "The past few years have been anything but easy. Your love has been tested," Goldsmith said. "You have emerged strong, committed and grateful."

Weitzel was sentenced last September to a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to prescription fraud. His sentence began in December and he was released Wednesday.

Weitzel was charged with murder in the deaths of five patients in Davis County in a 16-day period seven years ago. Prosecutors alleged he deliberately weakened them with psychotropic drugs and then finished them off with fatal doses of morphine. Weitzel contended he was providing normal comfort care to terminal patients.

He was convicted of manslaughter and negligent homicide in his first trial, but the judge ordered a new trial on the ground that prosecutors had failed to tell defense attorneys about an expert witness with views favorable to the defense. Weitzel was acquitted at the second trial last November.

He is now on a year of federal "supervised release," similar to probation in the state system.

The couple's future is still undecided and they have no concrete plans until Weitzel fulfills obligations imposed by the federal court.

"Because I have been away for so long, I hope to find a subspecialty training program in psychiatry, and perhaps ultimately work in prison psychiatry or with palliative care," Weitzel said in an earlier interview with the Deseret News.

Geerlings, a high school French teacher, met Weitzel through a mutual friend in 1999 and was convinced he was innocent of any wrongdoing, she said.

"When you meet your life partner and love him, you don't leave him," Geerlings said. "I've always believed in him. There will always be doubters, but I feel sorry for them because they don't know the story."

The legal difficulties made their relationship stronger, Weitzel said.

"It's an incredible strain, but it's something that has drawn us together and led to personal growth," he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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