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January 23, 2005

Comments

Kat

I, too, have a best friend with whom I agree on nothing politically. However, we are able to have a civil conversation over dinner. We both have blogs and we continually argue that way. :)

Nancy

Hugo,
Congratulations! You were terrific!...I put in a call to the show and was finally successful in reaching the producer. He asked me if I was against Glenn, and I said "you bet", he laughed. He told me that the lines were busy, but that he would call me back. He called back, I was really excited because I had done my homework and I was armed with some statistics as well as some personal experiences. Unfortunately, in all the excitement I had forgotten that I had to pick up my daughter from a dance rehearsal at 6:00pm, I couldn't keep her waiting in the dark, so I missed the end of the show; and my opportunity to back you up.(I had to hang up.) I was so disappointed, I was really looking forward to being on the 'air'. I'm much better on the phone than writing on-line.... really....years of sales experience I guess. Anyway, you were superb!..... So, when's your Gender Studies book coming out???

Hugo

Thanks, Nancy! Yes, Glenn noticed that you had been on, and they wanted to get you on. He really wanted a woman who would be on "my side."

Everyone keeps bugging me about a book. I'm such a scatterbrain, I don't know if I could stay "on message" for a whole book... but I also know that in order to have any real long-term legitimacy in this shindig, I have to publish somewhere other than the blogosphere!

squares_eater

Burke? As in Kenneth Burke? Please say it is so.

Hugo Schwyzer

Sorry, it's ol' Edmund.

Kyle

Jan. 27, 2005. 08:24 AM
CP FILE
Cherrylle Dell arrives for court in Pembroke in October 2000, accused of killing her ex-husband. Her lawyer says now: “This is a case overwhelmingly consistent with suicide.”
GTA COLUMNISTS
>
Jim Coyle
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Rosie Dimanno
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Joe Fiorito
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Christopher Hume
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Royson James
Dead husband, a boy and a lesbian affair
Was death by antifreeze a suicide?
Poison hidden in wine, trial told

TRACEY TYLER
LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER

Scott Dell spent the last hours of his life hunkered down in his farmhouse on a dark December night, writing a cryptic note that spoke of "suicide" and drinking a deadly potion of antifreeze and wine.

Hours later, he was dead of ethylene glycol poisoning. In 1995, police treated it as the suicide of a man who had been battling throat cancer, broken up with his girlfriend and was still hopelessly besotted with his ex-wife, who had left him for another woman.

What struck investigators immediately, however, and led them to conclude the 44-year-old unemployed truck driver had killed himself by drinking radiator antifreeze, was the vivid green liquid in the wine bottle and glass on his desk.

But before long, what seemed a sure sign of suicide wasn't so certain. And, nearly 10 years later, people are still asking whether in the sleepy little eastern Ontario town of Killaloe, things were really as they appeared.

Now, the issue of who, if anyone, killed Scott Dell is being debated before a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal in a case that's worthy of cinematic treatment. It's also raising questions about whether some of the classic ingredients of wrongful conviction, including a jailhouse informant, small town gossip and mounting suspicion, combined to send an innocent person to prison and obscure the sad but simple truth about a man who killed himself.

"This is a case overwhelmingly consistent with suicide," lawyer Philip Campbell argued yesterday in asking the appeal court to acquit his client, Cherrylle Dell.

More than a year after Scott Dell's death, Dell was charged with first-degree murder after her former lesbian lover went to police and implicated her in the killing.

Two years later, Dell's former lover, Nancy Filmore, was dead.

The Crown's theory was that Dell poisoned her former husband to secure his farm and custody of their three children. Dell gave him the toxic brew as a present, the prosecution contended, under the guise of homemade wine, and stayed up all night talking to him on the phone, encouraging him to drink some more.

The Crown also alleged that Dell seduced a teenager, Brent Crawford, into setting Filmore's house on fire. That theory was accepted by a jury that convicted Crawford of first-degree murder in 2001. The Ontario appeal court upheld the conviction last year.

Four years ago, after a trial before a judge alone, Dell was convicted of first-degree murder of her ex-husband and sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole for 25 years.

But Campbell told the court yesterday the verdict was unreasonable and dismissed the Crown's murder theory as so "daft... as to defy reason."

"It only makes sense if you go beyond the bounds of common sense," he said.

The theory depends on the central premise that Scott Dell did not grasp that the bright green liquid he was drinking was not wine but antifreeze, something that was obvious to anyone who saw it, Campbell said.

But it was also a dark winter night and Dell's taste buds had been "wiped out by cancer," Justice James MacPherson said. "What do you say about that?"

Campbell said Dell's sense of taste apparently wasn't completely destroyed because he had aspirations of becoming a "saucier" in a restaurant and the house wasn't so dark that he wasn't able to spend part of the evening writing the letter.

But antifreeze was an unlikely choice as a murder weapon, since it could be so easily detected by others and the idea that Dell committed the murder "by psychic remote control" — over the telephone — is "improbable," Campbell said.

If his client had given Dell the poisonous wine, she could not have been sure he wouldn't have drunk it in front of guests or "regifted" it to someone else, he said.

"The world is full of poisons a lot less visible than green antifreeze and it is full of delivery mechanisms a lot more opaque than white wine," he said.

Painting Dell as an "enchantress" and her former husband as "hopelessly in her thrall" may fit with the category of "mythic archetypes" but not with the evidence, Campbell added.

Ignoring logic and physical evidence, the trial judge, Justice James Chadwick, improperly discounted the likelihood that Scott Dell's death was a suicide by accepting at face value testimony from his friends and family that he was a positive, upbeat person who enjoyed life.

But death by ethylene glycol poisoning occurs over a number of hours and if Dell is a man "who is embracing life and determined to live" he would likely have called for help when he began experiencing symptoms, Campbell said.

Moreover, Chadwick's finding that Dell had a financial motive for killing her ex-husband was wrong, he said.

While Dell stood to inherit the farmhouse when Scott Dell died and believed it was worth much more than it was, being heavily encumbered by debt, she didn't — contrary to Chadwick's findings — need the money to buy a house, Campbell said.

In fact, she had obtained approval for a mortgage and her monthly payments would be the equivalent of what she had been paying in rent, he added.

Dell did fight "viciously" for more than three years for custody of her children but also had visiting rights and they were spending the majority of their time with her before her husband died, Campbell added.

Chadwick was told that Dell twice expressed interest in how much antifreeze it would take to kill a person.

But it was also claimed that Scott Dell said he could always kill himself by drinking antifreeze if his cancer treatment wasn't successful, Campbell told the panel, which also includes Justices Robert Sharpe and Eleanore Cronk.

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