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Doctor Convicted of First-Degree Murder : Crime: Samson Dubria used chloroform to subdue and rape a companion, who died of an overdose of the substance.

February 25, 1993|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — A jury in San Diego County has convicted a physician, formerly of Glendale, of first-degree murder in the death of a woman companion after he used chloroform to subdue and rape her.

After three weeks of testimony and a full day of deliberations, a Vista Superior Court jury last Thursday also convicted Dr. Samson Dubria of rape and administering an anesthetic during the commission of a felony. The panel also affirmed the special circumstance that the murder occurred during a rape, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole.

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D ubria, 29, was accused of mur dering Jennifer Klapper of Cincinnati on Aug. 19, 1991, in a Carlsbad motel room, where they had stopped for the night while on a sightseeing trip. The couple had just attended a reunion of Dubria's Glendale High School class.

The physician, now a resident of Morristown, N.J., put his head down on the defense table and wept when the clerk read the first guilty verdict. He kept his head buried in his arms until the jury left the courtroom about 10 minutes later.

"Jennifer wasn't a vindictive person," her father, Mike Klapper, told the Associated Press after the verdict. "I felt like at least her death didn't go unanswered, that the truth was found out."

Members of Dubria's family, who still live in Glendale, said they were devastated by the verdict.

The trial outcome "was very emotionally upsetting, absolutely shattering," said the physician's sister, Grace Dubria. In a brief interview Tuesday, she said family members, many of whom attended the trial daily, were too upset to comment further, but that they are considering seeking a new trial. Defense attorney Berry Bernstein could not be reached for comment.

Dubria told police that Klapper mysteriously died after they had consensual sex at the motel.

The cause of death was not immediately revealed by an autopsy. Toxicological tests later detected a lethal amount of chloroform in Klapper's body, leading to the charges against Dubria.

Police found no chloroform in Dubria's possession. The chemical is commonly available in most hospitals, however.

When police asked Dubria how the drug might have gotten in Klapper's body, he suggested that she might have ingested it when they drove past a truck hauling the chemical on the freeway.

Bernstein later suggested that Klapper might have administered chloroform to herself to relieve headache pain. However, experts testified that it is almost impossible to self-administer an overdose of chloroform without leaving traces.

Authorities said it was evident that someone in the motel room killed Klapper. Dubria admittedly was the only one there and, because the couple had just engaged in sex, Deputy Dist. Atty. Tim Casserly contended the defendant's motive for administering the chloroform must have been to render his companion unable to resist his advances.

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Klapper's friends and family testified that the victim was not romantically interested in Dubria and would not have consented to sex with him because she was in love with someone else.

Dubria and Klapper met in 1990 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, where he interned and she was an assistant hospital librarian. Dubria left in 1991 for a residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, N.J. Dubria testified that he was in love with Klapper and that she felt the same way about him.

Sentencing was set for March 18 before Judge Ronald S. Prager.

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