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Woman Denies Killing Husband

The former toxicologist testifies that spouse threatened to expose her affair with her boss.

November 02, 2002|From Staff and Wire Reports

SAN DIEGO — A former toxicologist accused of poisoning her husband testified Friday that she never planned to kill him, even though he threatened to expose her drug use and her affair with her boss.

"Were these threats so serious that you planned to take your husband's life?" defense attorney Alex Loebig asked his client, Kristin Rossum.

"Absolutely not," she said.

Rossum, 26, is accused of murdering Greg de Villers on Nov. 6, 2000. He died from a massive dose of the painkiller fentanyl, which prosecutors say Rossum stole from the San Diego County medical examiner's office, where she worked. They also allege that she stole methamphetamine for her drug habit.

The defense claims that De Villers, 26, killed himself. But investigators allege that Rossum tried to make the death look like a suicide, and placed rose petals around his body to mimic a scene from "American Beauty," her favorite film.

Rossum fielded mostly friendly questions from her public defender in her second day on the stand. Her answers were polite and she rarely cried, as she had done throughout much of her testimony the day before.

Prosecutors plan to cross-examine her Monday.

Rossum said she began using meth in high school. But she said her life turned around a couple of years later, when she met De Villers in December 1994. He helped her kick the drug, and she said she graduated with honors in chemistry from San Diego State University. They married in June 1999.

Rossum said she had second thoughts about marrying De Villers, but dismissed her doubts as pre-wedding jitters. They were happy for the first six months of their marriage, she said.

But as Rossum started to gain more independence, she said, De Villers reacted by becoming more "clingy." In June 2000, she began a sexual relationship with her boss, Michael Robertson, head of the toxicology lab at the medical examiner's office. Rossum said she told her husband about the affair soon after it began. De Villers was irate, she said, and called Robertson at home to demand that he end the relationship.

"He was devastated," Rossum said of De Villers. "There was a period where he basically went to bed for a couple of days and wouldn't talk to me, not to anyone."

The affair continued for a few months. By October, Rossum had taken up methamphetamine again. Just days before his death, she said, De Villers wrestled her to the floor when he saw her reading an old love note from Robertson.

She quickly put it through a paper shredder, she said, but De Villers spent hours with tweezers trying to piece it back together. Rossum said she believed he wanted to use it as evidence of her affair. The morning of her husband's death, she said, his speech was slurred. She called his office and left a message saying he wouldn't be at work that day.

She went home from work during the day to have lunch with him. When she checked on him that night, she said, he was cold to the touch and she called 911. Police drove her to the hospital, where she was told that De Villers was dead.

"I was devastated. I had lost my best friend," Rossum said. "I still love him. I still miss him."

Robertson and Rossum were fired in December 2000. Robertson, who has not been charged, has returned to his native Australia and is not expected to testify.

If convicted, Rossum could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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