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Murder Defendant Admits She Lied

Toxicologist accused of poisoning husband says she was embarrassed by her affair with her boss.

November 05, 2002|Beth Silver | Special to the Times

SAN DIEGO — Prosecutors fired questions Monday at a former county toxicologist accused of fatally poisoning her husband, hoping to show she has a history of lies and evasions.

During a day of intense and nearly nonstop questioning, Kristin Rossum, 26, admitted she lied on several occasions -- to detectives investigating her husband's death, to a television news show and to her husband's brothers after his death.

Greg de Villers, 26, died two years ago Wednesday from a massive dose of the painkiller fentanyl. Rossum is accused of committing murder and trying to make it look like a suicide. If convicted, she faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

During her testimony, Rossum also admitted lying to her husband about the extent of the affair she was having with her boss at the San Diego County medical examiner's office, and about her recent drug use.

About a week before De Villers' death, Rossum said, she resumed her methamphetamine habit, which she had quit five years before.

Although questions from the prosecution came at her rapid-fire throughout the day, Rossum appeared composed.

When confronted with discrepancies between her testimony and a transcript of an interview with police, Rossum admitted she did not reveal the entirety of her affair to the detective. "I wasn't saying the whole truth, no," Rossum said.

"Because you thought it might make you look bad?" Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Goldstein asked.

"I was very embarrassed," Rossum replied.

At times, the prosecutor's tone turned sarcastic. After Rossum said she didn't know why she hadn't told police that she had called her boss the night of her husband's death, Goldstein shot back: "And you graduated summa cum laude?"

The murder defendant's composure broke only when Goldstein asked her to identify De Villers in a couple of photographs. She cried briefly.

Goldstein asked Rossum if she had any drugs in her system. Rossum said she had taken a sleeping pill the night before and a half of a Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, that morning. She said her doctor had prescribed the drugs.

Rossum was much more emotional, sobbing often, when questioned by her attorney last week. She began testifying Thursday and continued Friday and Monday.

Prosecutors did not say how much longer Rossum would be on the stand. They allege that she killed De Villers because he had threatened to report her affair with her boss at the toxicology lab, Michael Roberts.

Rossum denied on the stand Friday that she killed De Villers. She previously said she believed her husband committed suicide because he was despondent at the possibility she would break up their marriage of a little more than one year.

Under cross-examination Monday, however, Rossum admitted she had never known De Villers to take drugs or to mention suicide. She also said she had agreed with De Villers' brothers' belief that he had not committed suicide.

"I wanted to believe it was accidental," she said, "because I was feeling so guilty."

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