Originally published May 7, 2012 at 6:34 a.m., updated May 7, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.
A 92-year-old retired school teacher who made at least $42,000 from sales of kits designed to help people commit suicide and failed to pay taxes on those earnings was sentenced today to five years probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
Sharlotte Hydorn, who lives near El Cajon, pleaded guilty last December to a misdemeanor charge of failing to file a tax return, admitting that she had failed to file federal income tax returns since 2007.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal found that Hydorn violated state law by selling more than 1,300 suicide kits in the United States and internationally since 2007, profiting from those sales and failing to pay taxes on that income.
As part of her probation, Hydorn is prohibited from further sales of the suicide kits.
"I'm completely out of that business now,'' Hydorn said outside the federal courthouse.
The East County resident said she will focus on a new project --"living memorials.''
Hydorn said she started looking into helping people commit suicide after her husband died of cancer at a hospital 30 years ago.
"I wanted for people to die at home ... with their families,'' she said.
Defense attorney Charles Goldberg said Hydorn sold the helium hood suicide kits to give people an "alternative,'' but she never advised anyone to take their own life.
"They bought the kits for their own piece of mind,'' Goldberg said.
The attorney said Hydorn has filed tax returns and paid taxes dating back to 2007 and is still working with the Internal Revenue Service to resolve taxes owed.
Hydorn told investigators that while she anticipated her suicide kits would be used by the terminally ill, she made no effort to verify the physical condition, age, identity or mental condition of customers.
Investigators said it was clear that Hydorn had no way of knowing if a suicide kit purchaser was simply depressed or a minor acting without the consent of a parent. Authorities said the defendant sold the kits to anyone who mailed her $40.
According to court records, Hydorn concealed the true nature of her suicide kits when filling out U.S. Customs forms required to sell goods internationally, in which she variously described them as an "orchid humidifier,'' an "orchid kit,'' a "beauty bonnet'' and a "plastic rain hood.''
Documents seized from Hydorn's home stated that she preferred customers to pay with money orders so they wouldn't leave a paper trail.