On the morning of August 22, 2005 Stacey Castor went to work at Liverpool Heating and Air Conditioning. She was the office manager for her husband, David Castor Sr, who owned the business. She made several attempts to call his cell phone but he refused to answer. When he still had not arrived at his business by 2 p.m. she decided to call the police and ask them to meet him at her residence because she was concerned about her husband's welfare. She claimed that her husband had locked himself in their bedroom. She also stated that he had been acting strangely for the last month and he kept a gun in the room.
When deputies from the Onondaga County Sheriff's department arrived at 4127 Wetzel Road, Stacey was waiting in the front yard for them. Sgt Robert Willoughby entered the residence and made his way to the bedroom door. Sgt Willoughby knocked on the door but after receiving no response he kicked the door in. David Castor was sprawled naked across the bed. On the floor next to the bed was a container of Prestone antifreeze. On the nightstand there was cranberry juice, apricot brandy, and a half full glass of a bright green liquid.
Sgt Willoughby summoned paramedics but it was already too late. Detective Dominick Spinelli arrived on the scene and observed David Castor's body on the bed and Stacey Castor outside seemly distraught. The house was searched and evidence collected. Including a turkey baster found in the kitchen trash.
Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Robert Stoppacher performed an autopsy and ruled that David Castor's had caused his own death by consuming antifreeze.
His family however, vehemently denied that David would ever consider taking his own life. And there was at least one other person who had his own suspicions about David's death. Detective Spinelli refused to close the case. Something just didn't sit right with him.
The following day Detective Spinelli sat down with Stacey Castor and she gave a nine-paged detailed statement as to the final days of David Castor's life.
Stacey felt that the recent death of his father and stress at work pushed David over the edge and led him to take his own life.
She claimed that they had been having frequent arguments in the four days leading up to his death. According to Stacey, David locked himself in the bedroom and spent the weekend drinking and vomiting. She cleaned up the vomit and rubbed his feet, gave him cranberry juice and water, and did whatever she could to try and make him comfortable. At one point during the weekend she came in the room and found David on the floor. She called a family friend to help her pick David up and put him back in the bed. She claimed she spent the weekend sleeping on the couch and tried to stay out of the house as much as possible. She gave a detailed account of her comings and goings for the entire weekend.
Stacey Castor volunteered one final piece of information prior to ending the interview. David and she had watched a "48 Hours" television show about a woman who had killed her two husbands by putting antifreeze in green jello. They watched the program again a month or two ago when it aired again.
The interview did not sit well with Detective Spinelli and as Stacey Castor buried her second husband next to her first husband, Michael Wallace, he helped launch an investigation that would take two years to complete.
One month after David Castor's death, Stacey convinced her longtime friend, Linda Pulaski and her husband to witness David's signature on a will leaving Stacey sole heir to his estate. The will was then backdated to two years earlier.
As the police police conducted their investigation it soon became apparent that Stacey's description of events did not match the evidence. She claimed to have repeatedly phoned her husband on the day of his death but a search of all her phone records showed that she only placed one call to David.
The half-full glass of antifreeze contained three fingerprints. All of which belonged to Stacey. The container of antifreeze found on the bedroom floor had no finger prints on it at all. And the turkey baster that was found in the kitchen garbage had traces of antifreeze and David's DNA on the tip.
The police were now certain that David Castor died by his wife's hands and not his own. The suspicious circumstances surrounding his death caused them to look more closely at the death of Stacy Castor's first husband Mike Wallace.
Michael Wallace died of a heart attack or so doctor's originally thought. The police were skeptical and made the unusual request to have the body exhumed. When an autopsy was performed the medical examiner found traces of antifreeze and rat poison in his remains. The official cause of death was changed to homicide.
Detective Spinelli again brings Stacey Castor in for questioning and asks her why the only finger prints found on the glass of antifreeze was hers she responds, " when I poured the antifree... I mean cranberry juice." Once she realize what she had done Stacey terminated the interview and requested to speak with a lawyer.
Stacey could feel the noose tightening around her neck. It was just a matter of time before the knock came on the door that would spell an end to her life as a free woman. Someone had to pay for the murders of David Castor and Michael Wallace and Stacey was determined that it would not be her.
Ashley Wallace, Stacey's oldest daughter from her first marriage, was visited by detectives on her first day of college in September of 2007. They informed her that her father had not died of a heart attack but had indeed been poisoned. A hysterical Ashley called her mother to tell her about the detectives. Stacey arrived at the college to pick Ashley up and suggested that the two of them go home and get some drinks. They were going through a stressful time and needed something to help them relax. 20-year-old Ashley, who had no reason to mistrust not only her mother but her best friend, readily agreed. Stacey bought some Watermelon Smirnoff Ice on the way home and Ashley drank with her mother until she became ill. The next day when Ashley returned home from school, Stacey was waiting for her with a mixture of Vodka, Sprite and orange juice. Ashley took a sip of the concoction but was put off by the awful taste. Stacey convinced her daughter to drink it quickly by using a straw, which Ashley did, because again, this was her mother.
Seventeen hours later, Ashley's younger sister Bree Wallace came into her room to check on her and found Ashley nearly comatose on her bed. She screamed for Stacey who came flying into the room, took one look at her daughter and called 911. She told the 911 operator that Ashley had swallowed a lot of pills along with a bottle of Vodka and that her sister Bree had found a suicide note. The typewritten letter was apparently Ashley's confession to the murders of her father and stepfather. The painstaking description of how the murders occurred could have only come from someone who had firsthand knowledge of the crimes.
When Ashley awoke in the hospital she was confused. She could not figure out how she had ended up in a hospital bed with her wrists tied down and most of all why police Sgt Michael Norton was yelling at her. She never took any pills, she didn't write any suicide note, and she sure as heck hadn't murdered anyone. Investigators also took note of the fact that the supposed suicide letter refered to antifreeze as "antifree" and during her interrogation Ashley always used the entire word unlike her mother, Stacey.
When news of Ashley's supposed suicide attempt reached Detective Spinelli he was appalled. He never thought for one minute that Stacey would go to such lengths to save her own skin. It was time to put an end to her murderous rampage. Stacey Castor was arrested soon after for the murder of her second husband David Castor and the attempted murder of her own daughter, Ashley.
In December of 2007, Stacey Castor was indicted on three separate charges: 2nd degree murder, 2nd degree attempted murder and 1st degree offering of a false document.
Stacey Castor went on trial in January of 2009. Prosecutors laid out the case against Stacey including the lack of David's fingerprints on the glass and antifreeze container, the turkey baster containing his DNA which prosecutors felt she used to force-feed the antifreeze to David. They also introduced evidence that Stacey's first husband, Michael Wallace, had also died of antifreeze poisoning. Also that Stacey and not Ashley referred to antifreeze as "antifree."
But what was the motive? Not surprising prosecutors felt it had to do with money. Stacey collected on her husbands life insurance policies and she forged a new will cutting out David's son from his previous marriage and leaving his estate solely to her.
Stacey Castor's computer was confiscated and there was found several drafts of the suicide note that Ashley was supposed to have written. The time stamp on the drafts showed they were written when Ashley was at school. Prosecutors also argued the attempted suicide was in actuality a murder plot in which to frame her own child for the murders.
Stacey Castor took the stand in her own defense. She maintained her innocence and insisted that her daughter Ashley had in fact murdered her father, even though she was only 11 years old at the time, and her stepfather. When asked what possible reason her daughter would have for the murders she would only imply that Ashley might be suffering from some sort of mental illness. She admitted on cross-examination that she never attempted to get any sort of help for her daughter.
On February 5, 2009, Stacey Castor was found guilty on all three charges and received a sentence of 51-1/3 years. As Judge Fahey handed down the sentence he had these parting words for Stacey Castor, "...I have to say Mrs Castor, you are in a class all by yourself. I had never seen a parent willing to sacrifice their child to shift the blame away from themselves. It's the most reprehensible crime I've ever seen."
Stacey Castor had no comment and showed no remorse. Given the length of her sentence, at her age it is very likely that she will die in prison.
On a final note, charges are pending against Stacey Castor for the murder of her first husband, Michael Wallace.
31-year-old John P. Dunning had the kind lifestyle that many people dream of. He was a well-regarded war correspondent and had a devoted wife, Mary, who was the daughter of former congressman John B. Pennington of Dover Delaware.
In 1891 the couple moved to San Francisco where Dunning took a position as the Bureau Chief of Associated Press' Western Division. A year later the couple welcomed the birth of their daughter.
In the summer of 1895, Dunning was riding his bike to work through Golden Gate Park when it broke down near a bench where the woman who would tragically alter his future was sitting enjoying the morning sun. As he fixed his bike the two struck up a conversation and although she was 10 years his senior Dunning soon found himself captivated by her ill disguised, raw sensuality and they were soon embroiled in a torrid affair. She was Cordelia Botkin, wife of wealthy businessman, Welcome A. Botkin from Stockton California. Although they were separated, Cordelia's husband still supported her financially with a monthly stipend. Cordelia introduced Dunning to the seedy side of San Francisco and before long he was caught up in a sordid lifestyle of drinking, partying, and gambling.
Mary Elizabeth Dunning had suffered the ultimate humiliation. Her husband was openly cavorting with a woman of obviously loose morals. To add to this he had been fired from his position at Associated Press when it was suspected that he had embezzled company funds in order to pay his gambling debts. And due to his heavy drinking he was unable to maintain employment. Fed up, Mary Elizabeth packed up herself and her daughter and moved back to Delaware with her parents.
Still caught up in the clutches of Cordelia, Dunning moved into same hotel where she was staying and for the time being was content to let Cordelia support the both of them with her husband's money.
During one of their conversations the subject of Dunning's wife arose and he let it slip about her love of candy and that she had a close friend in San Francisco named Mrs Corbaley.
Eventually Dunning grew tired of his life of debauchery and jumped at the chance when Associated Press offered to rehire him as a war correspondent to cover the Spanish-American war in Cuba. He informed Cordelia of his plans and turned a deaf ear to her impassioned pleadings for him to stay with her. Dunning also informed her that he had no intentions of returning to San Francisco and upon completing his assignment he would be returning to Delaware in the hopes of reuniting with his wife and child.
Mary Elizabeth received letters signed "A Friend" postmarked San Francisco. They informed her that her husband was still constantly seen in the company of an attractive woman and warned Mary Elizabeth not to reconcile with her husband. She turned the letters over to her father for safe keeping.
On August 9, 1898, a small package arrived at the Dover, Delaware addressed to Mary Elizabeth Dunning. Inside the box was chocolate bonbons resting atop a lacy handkerchief with the price tag still attached. The note enclosed with the package read, "With love to yourself and baby. Mrs. C."
Later that evening after dining on trout and corn fritters, the family retired to the veranda in a effort to cool off from the summer heat. Thinking the chocolates were from her friend, Mrs. Corbaley, from San Francisco, Mary Elizabeth had no reservations about indulging in her love of chocolate or passing the box around for her family to share. Mary Elizabeth's parents passed but her older sister, her daughter, her niece and two young neighbors who had stopped by to visit.
Hours later all six of the unfortunate people who ate the candy experienced stomach pains and vomiting. The physician who came to examine them diagnosed their illness as cholera morbus, a common ailment due to lack of refrigeration. He claimed it was probably from the corn fritters they had eaten at dinner. The problem with that theory was the two neighbors had not eaten the fritters. Nonetheless everyone eventually recovered with the exception of Mary Elizabeth and her sister. Having eaten the bulk of the candy they progressed to severe stomach spasms and their father called in a specialist who's grim suspicion spelled doom for the two women. He feared that they had been poisoned and by then it was too late to save them. Mary Elizabeth and her sister died a day later.
Mr Pennington began to suspect that his daughters had been poisoned by the candy and he had the uneaten candy analyzed. The chemist reported that a few of the chocolates had indeed been tainted with arsenic.
Mary Elizabeth's father dispatched a telegram posthaste to John Dunning informing him of the death of his beloved wife. When he reached the home of Mr. Pennington, Mary's father, he was immediately shown the letters and handwritten note that accompanied the box of chocolate. It took only one brief glance for him to instantly recognise the handwriting. There was no doubt as to the identity of the writer in his mind. He broke down and told Mr. Pennington the details of the sordid affair with Cordelia Botkin.
The Dover Police were contacted who then referred the case to San Francisco since the candies were sent from there. The remaining candy, the paper it was wrapped in and the handkerchief were sent to San Francisco in the custody of Dover Police.
San Francisco Police Chief Isaiah W. Less spearheaded the case against Cordelia and immediately set to work building the evidence against her. The sensational story was soon front page news and the Examiner "assisted" the police with the investigation. The paper that was used to wrap the candy was traced back to the George Haas confectionery where the clerk recalled selling the chocolate bonbons to a woman fitting Cordelia's physical description. The price tag on the handkerchief led directly to the City of Paris department store. A clerk who remembered selling arsenic to a woman who resembled Cordelia was eventually located at the Owl Drug store. Finally Less had the note that accompanied the chocolates and the anonymous letters sent to Mary Elizabeth analyzed by a handwriting expert who conclusively matched them to samples of Cordelia's writings.
In October, 1898, Chief Less appeared before the grand jury, confident that he had a strong, albeit circumstantial case. The only potential problem was the fact that an autopsy had not been performed on the two women so there was no proof that they had died from arsenic poisoning. In response the grand jury returned with an indictment for two counts of first-degree murder against Mrs. Cordelia Botkin.
Her trial began in December, 1898 before Judge Carroll Cook. Given the strength of the prosecutions case, the defense had no choice but to put Cordelia on the stand. She admitted that she bought the arsenic in June but hers was powdered not the crystalline type that was found in the candy. Furthermore she claimed she had bought the arsenic to bleach a straw hat. She also produced alibis to prove that she did not purchase the candy or mail the package. However her alibis could not be substantiated.
After four hours of the deliberation the jury found Cordelia guilty and recommended life in prison. As recommended Cordelia was confined to the Branch County Prison to serve her life sentence. One Sunday a few months after being sent to prison Judge Cook spotted Cordelia shopping in downtown San Francisco. He immediately launched an investigation and uncovered evidence that Cordelia had exchanged sexual favors for lavish comforts in jail and the freedom to leave the prison grounds.
Meanwhile Cordelia's lawyer appealed her conviction and was able to have it overturned based on a procedural error. Her second trial commenced in 1904 and on August 2, 1904 she was again sentenced to life in prison.
Cordelia Botkin was transferred to San Quentin State Prison where she remained until her death on March 7, 1910. The official cause of death was "softening of the brain due to melancholy." She was 56 years old.