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Awakened about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday by a noise outside of his bedroom, a Florida man reached first for the woman who lay beside him and, believing she was there, then reached for his handgun.
His bullet struck the shadowy figure of his six-months-pregnant wife, who the man failed to realize had gotten out of bed. She was fatally injured.
“Help me please, help me!” the man, shirtless and wearing white boxers as he held the couple’s son, screamed to the arriving officer summoned by his 911 call, states a police report obtained by PEOPLE. “I just shot my wife. My life is over.”
“This is a nightmare case,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told news outlets, reports the Associated Press. “You know somebody who thinks he’s defending his home, actually shoots his wife.”
The woman, who authorities have not named, was shot in the head and taken by first-responders to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Doctors were able to save the couple’s unborn child, according to the sheriff’s office, reports WPBF.
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In the man’s 911 call, “what he clearly said was, ‘I shot my wife by accident,'” the sheriff told WPEC. “It was hard to listen to. It was a man clearly in horrible anguish. Extremely distraught.”
“He was asleep, thought there was an intruder in the house, heard noises, reached over to feel for his wife, and unfortunately he felt (what) turned out to be his dog,” he said.
The incident is believed to be no more than a tragic mistake, with no prior reports of domestic disturbances at the couple’s Stuart home, but authorities are conducting a full investigation, he said.
“He gave us a pretty in-depth statement, in which he said that he awoke in the middle of the night, thought he heard somebody in the house, went to investigate with a handgun, saw a shape in the hallway and fired one round and unfortunately, it turned out to be his wife,” said Snyder.
“So, though we do have a good statement from him, we don’t take anything to face value and we’ll continue investigating through all backgrounds; there’s a lot of investigative steps that we’ll have to make sure that he’s telling the truth,” he said.
The couple also had a 2-year-old child in the home who was not hurt.
The sheriff’s message to gun owners: “If you keep a gun within easy access because you think you might need it to protect your home, you have to be extremely careful,” he told WPEC. “When you make that decision to pull that trigger, you’ve got know what you’re shooting at, who you’re shooting at.”