Palm Desert – The “not guilty” plea entered at the Indio Larsen Justice Center by former California Assembly member Steve Clute on Wednesday was not as shocking as the tragedy that led to the charges against him.
Clute, who served in the California Assembly from 1982 to 1992, and represented the communities of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Banning, the Coachella Valley and Blythe, was charged on November 30th with aiding/abetting in the suicide of his wife, 66-year-old Pam Clute, who is alleged to have suffered from severe pain, the result of a degenerative back condition. She died in the couple’s Palm Desert home on August 21, 2016.
According to numerous reports, Pam Clute’s initial cause of death was noted as pending. In October, however, officials revealed her death was actually the result of a gunshot wound.
The formal complaint against Clute reads in part that “on about August 21, 2016 . . . the defendant, Steven W. Clute committed a violation of Penal Code Section 401, a felony.” It further claimed “he deliberately aided, advised or encouraged another person to commit suicide.”
According to the complaint, reviewed by The Voice, Clute said on the day of the incident, he was awakened by a gunshot and found his wife with a gunshot wound to her head. The report also revealed Clute changed his story “several times” when he was re interviewed by investigators on August 22, 2016.
Clute admitted he provided his wife with the gun she used to kill herself. According to the complaint, however he also stated, “Pamela was unable to ‘do it’ herself,” but he did not pull the trigger.
Under Miranda, Clute claimed he gave his wife the revolver “as an option to end the pain she was going through based on a previous discussion they had about using the revolver as an option.”
Court documents also show that on the day Pam Clute died, Steve Clute called 911 and during the call told the dispatcher how his wife suffered from extreme pain due to a chronic back condition. He also shared how the pain made her want to end her life—which is what he told deputies when they arrived on the scene.
Part of what appears of concern to authorities, is why Clute delayed his call to 911. According to court documents, there was at least a 40-minute delay between the time he said his wife shot herself and his call for help.
California is one of only five states in the nation where assisted suicide is legal, but California’s law only accommodates physician-assisted suicides and then, only when the patient is suffering from a terminal illness and has complied with the strict requirements of the law.
Pam Clute’s death was not only sad news to those who knew her personally, but also to the many who respected her professionally. She had a distinguished, 40-year career as a professor at UC Riverside where she was highly respected for her advocacy in STEM careers for young women.
Steve Clute is scheduled to return to court for a felony settlement conference in late January, 2018.