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Woman Held in Death of Her 5th Husband

Crime: Heart surgeon was shot to death. Some of her ex-spouses say they feel they dodged the bullet.

March 17, 1996|TERRY KINNEY | ASSOCIATED PRESS

CINCINNATI — Della Faye Hall Hoeffer Beyer Bassett Britteon Sutorius was the marrying kind. Five times she wed, each time selecting a man younger or wealthier than the last.

Four of the marriages ended in divorce, some of her ex-husbands claiming that they escaped with their lives.

The fifth ended in a gunshot.

Della Sutorius, 45, is charged with aggravated murder in the slaying of heart surgeon Dr. Darryl Sutorius, 55, found shot in the head Feb. 19 in the basement of the couple's home in well-to-do Symmes Township. She could get life in prison.

A colleague said Della Sutorius' husband had been planning to file for divorce.

"I think this woman has a serious problem with rejection," Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said.

Her third husband, graphic artist Grant Bassett, said that during their nine-month marriage, she would get herself all wound up watching TV talk shows and threaten to kill him.

Bassett said, "When I heard that Dr. Sutorius was dead, I thought, 'I'm so . . . lucky to be alive, it's not funny.' "

In 1990, shortly after she divorced Bassett, she was convicted of threatening a boyfriend with a gun. Stockbroker Lawrence Wulker told police she told him that she was pregnant and "threatened my life if she miscarried."

Her fourth husband, computer consultant David Britteon, told the Cincinnati Post he survived their marriage only because he hid the bullets to the .44-caliber magnum that he kept in their home. Otherwise, he said, "it would be me on the couch with a bullet to my ear."

Sheriff's deputies found Sutorius' body after his co-workers, worried that he hadn't shown up for work, sent them to the couple's $284,000 brick home. When they arrived, Della Sutorius told police that her husband wasn't there.

But officers looked around anyway and found Sutorius dead in the basement, a .38-caliber revolver on the floor nearby. Investigators said Della Sutorius had bought the gun two days earlier.

A week after the shooting, Della Sutorius was arrested. Published reports quoted unidentified sources as saying that gunpowder had been found on her hands and her husband's.

Her attorney, R. Scott Croswell III, said Della Sutorius expects to be acquitted. "She is anxious to face these charges and have them resolved," he said. He did not respond to a request to interview his client.

Five days before Sutorius' death, he said he was contemplating divorce from the woman he had married less than a year earlier, said Dr. Jim Mills, a fellow surgeon.

"From what I could gain, he obviously was not happy with his situation," Mills told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The couple, who reportedly met through a dating service, married four months after Sutorius divorced his wife of 30 years.

Of Della Sutorius' marriages, this one seemed the most advantageous. Her new husband drove a Porsche and a Jaguar, and had a vacation condo in Mexico and a $380,000 annual income.

She was a 19-year-old high school dropout when she married her first husband, 18-year-old Joseph Hoeffer. They had one child and divorced after four years, the child staying with Hoeffer.

At 24, she married 23-year-old plumber James Beyer. She divorced him five years later. She married Bassett in 1990. Nine months later, they agreed to divorce. She was 41 when she married Britteon, then 29. That marriage ended after three years. She married Sutorius in 1995.

When a grand jury convened earlier this month to indict Della Sutorius, three former husbands and a boyfriend met for the first time. Bassett said all her husbands saw the same thing in her. "She was very striking . . . eye-catching," he said. "I thought I was getting into a pretty lady, very meek. Lo and behold, Tasmanian devil."

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