Early Saturday, bed-ridden Diana St. Jean of New Milford took the hand of her husband of 42 years, told him how much she appreciated his taking care of her, and went back to sleep.

Yet minutes later, she awakened again to find him straddling her and trying to suffocate her with a pillow, she told the New Milford police officers who saved her.

Several times, she said she had yelled, "Stop this," and, "This isn't you," but saw no indication he had heard her.

Others echoed those words Monday as Herbert St. Jean was arraigned in state Superior Court in Bantam on a charge of first-degree attempted murder.

"Completely out of character," public defender James Longwell told Judge Richard Marano as he sought a reduction in his client's $1 million bond.

"It doesn't sound like Herb St. Jean to me," said Town Councilman Frank Wargo, a longtime friend and former business partner, when contacted later. "He's the most gentle person I know."

Even Mr. St. Jean appeared at a loss to explain his actions when questioned by police who responded to the 911 call from the couple's Cornwall Drive home just before Saturday at 3:20 a.m.

Officers forced their way inside and followed the victim's screams to the second-floor bedroom, where Herbert St. John was standing with his back against the wall and his wife was on the floor at his feet, police said.

Had police not arrived, Mr. St. Jean told them, "I think I would have killed her."

Asked why, he said, "I don't know," but later implied he felt overwhelmed by her medical problems.

Pressed about whether he was trying "to end the victim's misery," Mr. St. Jean answered, "You could say that," adding, "I always have to make sure that I'm healthy because I always have to take care of her," and "Thank God she can read, because that is all she can do," police said in the report.

Diana St. Jean, 64, said the couple hadn't argued before they retired for the evening.

Still, she said she awoke about 3 a.m. to find him out of bed and standing over her, "feeling around my body." He said she "was snoring and making strange noises," and he was checking "to make sure I was breathing fine," she told police.

Diana St. Jean said she went back to sleep, but woke up about 3:20 to find her husband pushing a pillow down on her face, police said in the report.

The couple struggled, eventually falling off the bed, and she grabbed the telephone and called 911. But before she could speak, she said her husband grabbed the phone and threw it across the room, police said.

At the New Milford Police Department, dispatcher Alex Correa heard a woman screaming, "Herb, don't do this," and "What will you tell the kids," according to the report.

"I continued to ask him `why.' He finally stated something like, `I can't take it anymore' or `You're driving me crazy,'" she told police.

Diana St. Jean was taken to New Milford Hospital, where she was treated and released.

Her husband was held in the police lockup until he was taken to court Monday, where, clad in jeans, a green and red plaid shirt and loafers without socks, he was arraigned for unlawful restraint and interfering with an emergency call, in addition to attempted murder.

Judge Marano reduced his bond to $250,000 and transferred the case to state Superior Court in Litchfield for an Oct. 16 hearing.

Mr. Wargo said Mr. St. Jean had served for years on the Board of Directors at New Milford Hospital, a volunteer with hospice and the local Visiting Nurse Association.

The two men were partners for years in a local alarm business, Fire Control.

"It's just so out of character," Mr. Wargo said. "We were business partners for 20 years, and it was all on a handshake."

"They say you can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your friends, and he'd be one of the first ones I'd pick," Mr. Wargo said.

jpirro@newstimes.com; 203-731-3342