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Wife in Poison Case Testifies

Accused of killing her husband, former toxicologist Kristin Rossum tells of ballet lessons and her drug addiction.

November 01, 2002|Beth Silver | Special to The Times

SAN DIEGO — Kristin Rossum, the former toxicologist accused of staging her husband's death to look like a suicide, took the witness stand in her own defense Thursday, often sobbing before a packed courtroom.

The 26-year-old told of a happy childhood growing up with her two younger brothers and her parents, both college professors. She recounted her high school days, becoming addicted to methamphetamine, a suicide attempt, and the first time she met her future husband, Greg de Villers.

Rossum testified for an hour. She is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today.

She has yet to discuss an affair she had with her boss, Michael Robertson, or her husband's death. And prosecutors have yet to cross-examine her.

Although it is somewhat unusual for a defendant to testify in her own murder trial, Rossum has occupied the witness box before. She testified in cases she handled as an assistant in the San Diego County medical examiner's office.

It is from that office that prosecutors allege she stole drugs to satisfy her drug habit and to kill her husband.

De Villers, who was 26, died Nov. 6, 2000, at their La Jolla apartment with rose petals strewn across his body and a photo from their wedding propped up by his head.

Rossum's voice was calm while talking of her love for science and ballet, and shaky when her testimony turned to her former drug addiction and the disappointment it brought to her parents.

De Villers died of poisoning from fentanyl, a painkiller said to be 100 times more potent than morphine.

Prosecutors argue that Rossum killed De Villers because she feared her husband would tell her employers she had a history of drug abuse and that he would expose an affair she was having with her boss at the medical examiner's office.

But Rossum's attorneys contend that De Villers ingested the fentanyl because he was despondent. Rossum had told him that she planned to leave him.

Though the drugs that killed De Villers could have come from the lab where Rossum worked, her attorneys say prosecutors can't prove who administered them.

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