updated 11/23/2010 2:31:49 PM ET 2010-11-23T19:31:49

An 88-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting of his ill wife at a Southern California nursing home.

Orange County prosecutors Tuesday charged Roy Charles Laird with one felony count of murder, with a sentencing enhancement for use of a firearm causing death.

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If convicted, Laird would face a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison.

Authorities say Laird handed over a .38-caliber revolver to police on Sunday after gunfire was reported at Country Villa Healthcare Center in Seal Beach.

His 86-year-old wife, Clara Laird, was discovered with a gunshot wound to the head. She had suffered years of dementia and terminal pancreatic cancer.

The couple's daughter has described the shooting as a mercy killing.

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