Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Guilty verdict in 'American Beauty' murder

From the National Desk
Published 11/12/2002 8:39 PM
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SAN DIEGO, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- A former toxicologist was found guilty Tuesday of murdering her husband with powerful painkillers stolen from her job at the San Diego coroner's office and then trying to make it look like a suicide scene from her favorite movie.

A San Diego County Superior Court jury needed only eight hours to find Kristen Rossum, 26, guilty of administering a lethal dose of fentanyl to her husband two years ago and then sprinkling his head and shoulders with rose petals in an attempt to make it appear as though he had killed himself in the same manner as the hero in a fantasy scene from the film "American Beauty."

No suicide note was found, however, and Rossum admitted to police that "American Beauty" was her favorite movie.

Rossum, who had been free on bail, was taken into custody after the verdict was announced. She faces life in prison without parole when she is sentenced Dec. 12.

A gag order imposed on the families remained in effect even after the verdict was announced. The De Villars family has a wrongful death claim pending against the county.

Rossum was charged with poisoning her 26-year-old husband, Greg de Villars, because she feared he was about to blow the whistle on her drug use and an affair she had been having with her boss at the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office. The defense portrayed the death as a despondent man ending his own life over the impending break-up of his marriage.

The scandal prompted her supervisor, Michael Robertson, to move back to his native Australia shortly after De Villars died; he was considered an un-indicted co-conspirator in the case.

Rossum told investigators that her husband had told her the night he died that he was not feeling well and had taken some of her old prescription medication and was going to bed. An autopsy revealed the prescription drugs -- oxycodone and conazepam -- in De Villars' system along with a large dose of fentanyl.

A quantity of fentanyl was missing from the coroner's office at the time of De Villars' death, according to testimony during the trial.

(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)

Copyright 2002 United Press International
 

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