Kristin Rossum

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Kristin Rossum
Born (1976-10-25) October 25, 1976 (age 42)
Occupation(former) Toxicologist
Criminal statusImprisoned
Spouse(s)Gregory de Villers (1999-2000; his death)
Parent(s)Ralph and Constance Rossum
Criminal chargeFirst degree murder
PenaltyLife without parole

Kristin Margrethe Rossum (born October 25, 1976) is an American toxicologist convicted of the November 6, 2000 murder of her husband Greg de Villers, who died from a lethal dose of fentanyl. Rossum is serving a life sentence in a California prison.

Background[edit]

Kristin Rossum grew up in Claremont, California, the oldest child of Ralph and Constance Rossum. Her father is a professor at Claremont McKenna College and her mother worked at Azusa Pacific University.[1][2] She has two brothers.[3] In 1991, after Rossum's father accepted the position of President of Hampden–Sydney College, the family moved to Virginia and Kristin enrolled at the all-girls St. Catherine's School in Richmond. There, Rossum began drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. She also tried marijuana, but said it had little effect.[4]. Starting in 1992, she began using methamphetamine.[5][6]

In 1994, Rossum moved back to California and enrolled part-time at the University of Redlands and moved into a dormitory on campus, but eventually left following a relapse. After overcoming her addiction and beginning her relationship with Greg de Villers, Rossum enrolled at San Diego State University and graduated with honors in 1998. After graduating, she worked as a toxicologist at the San Diego County medical examiner's office. Rossum and de Villers married in 1999. The following year, she began an extramarital affair with her boss, Dr. Michael Robertson.

Murder[edit]

In late 2000, de Villers had learned about both the affair and her resumption of her meth habit, threatening to expose both to the medical examiner if she did not quit her job. Robertson, who also knew Rossum had relapsed, learned of this threat before de Villers was killed.

On November 6, 2000, just after 9:15 p.m., Rossum dialled 9-1-1 and reported that de Villers had committed suicide. Paramedics found him laying unresponsive on the couple's bed, which was sprinkled with red rose petals; he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. His wife told authorities he committed suicide. Despite her claims, de Villers' family – particularly his brother Jerome – were adamant that he was not suicidal. However, San Diego police were initially reluctant to open an investigation. A month after de Villers' death, Rossum and Robertson were both fired from the medical examiner's office – Rossum for hiding her meth habit, and Robertson for hiding his knowledge of her habit and their affair.

Due to potential conflicts of interest, the San Diego medical examiner outsourced de Villers' autopsy to an outside lab in Los Angeles. The tests showed de Villers had seven times the lethal dose of fentanyl in his system. Under questioning, Rossum told detectives that her husband had been depressed before he died, while her father stated that he seemed to be deeply distressed and that he drank heavily on the night he died. As the investigation continued, police learned about Rossum's relapse, and about a phone call she made to de Villers' employers telling them he would not be coming in to work the day of his murder.[7]

Trial and conviction[edit]

On June 25, 2001, seven months after de Villers' death, Rossum was arrested and charged with murder. On January 4, 2002, her parents posted her $1.25 million bail.[8]

At trial, the prosecution contended that Rossum murdered her husband to keep him from telling her bosses about both her affair and her use of meth stolen from the drug lab. Defense attorneys argued that de Villers was suicidal and poisoned himself. Rossum’s brother-in-law, Jerome de Villers, testified that it was difficult to believe his brother had committed suicide because he hated drugs. The 9-1-1 tape played in court appeared to indicate Rossum was administering CPR to her husband. According to her Vons card history, she had purchased the rose used to stage de Villers' body, which prosecutors claimed was copied from a scene in the 1999 film American Beauty.

On November 12, 2002, Rossum was found guilty of first degree murder. On December 12, she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole and a $10,000 fine. She was transferred to the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, the largest women's correctional facility in the U.S.

Recent events[edit]

In 2006, both Rossum and San Diego County were named as defedants in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by de Villers' family. A jury ordered Rossum to pay more than $100 million in punitive damages, while San Diego County was ordered to pay $1.5 million. The family had originally asked for $50 million in punitive damages, but jurors awarded double that amount after estimating Rossum could have made $60 million from selling the rights to her story.[9] John Gomez, the lawyer for the de Villers family, acknowledged that the family may never see the money, but wanted to make sure Rossum does not profit from her crime.[10] A judge later reduced the punitive damages award to $10 million, but allowed the $4.5 million compensatory award to stand.[11]

In September 2010, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Rossum's lawyers should have challenged the prosecution's assertion, by doing its own tests, that she poisoned her husband with fentanyl. The panel ordered a San Diego federal court to hold a hearing into whether the defense's error could have affected the trial's outcome.[12] On September 13, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals withdrew its opinion and replaced it with a one-paragraph statement that under a new Supreme Court precedent, Rossum's petition was denied.[13]

Following his termination by the San Diego medical examiner's office, Robertson returned to his home in Brisbane, Australia, ostensibly to care for his ailing mother. In September 2013, the San Diego Reader reported that, in 2006, prosecutors secretly filed a criminal complaint charging Robertson – who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator at Rossum's trial[14] – with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. If Robertson ever returns to the US for trial, he could face up to three years in prison.[15] As of 2014, Robertson is running a forensic consulting service in Brisbane.[16]

In 2017 Kristin attempted to kill herself by slashing her wrists. She was then sent to the psychiatric unit at the women's prison in Los Angeles. She is reportedly a heavy methamphetamine users and has been cited several times for meth use. Rumor has it she was distraught over a visit from her brother who brought his young child and since Kristin will never have kids of her own, she attempted to take her life. She has also maintained a long term love relationship with another inmate named Theresa.

In popular culture[edit]

Rossum was featured in episodes of true crime documentary series such as Oxygen's true crime series Snapped, E!'s Women Who Kill, truTV's The Investigators[17], and Investigation Discovery's Deadly Women, How (Not) To Kill Your Husband, and 50 Ways to Kill Your Lover. Her story was also featured on newsmagazines such as CBS's 48 Hours.

Caitlin Rother, who was interviewed for each episode, wrote Poisoned Love, a book about the case: ISBN 0-7860-1714-7. Another book about Rossum was Deadly American Beauty by John Glatt: ISBN 0-312-98419-7.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Toxicologist Found Guilty of Killing Husband". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  2. ^ "Poisoning Suspect Changes Lawyers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  3. ^ "SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Metro > The Trial of Kristin Rossum -- Rossum gets life". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  4. ^ Glatt, John (2007). Deadly American Beauty. Macmillan. pp. 15–16. ISBN 9781429904742.
  5. ^ "American Beauty". CBS News. 10 April 2002. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  6. ^ "SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Metro > The Trial of Kristin Rossum -- Rossum's addiction cost everyone close to her". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  7. ^ "The Rose Petal Murder". Crime Library
  8. ^ Caitlin Rother (January 5, 2002). "Wife in fatal poisoning case free on bail after 6 months". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  9. ^ Millions of Dollars Awarded to Family of Man Killed by Toxicologist Wife. North County Times, 2006-03-21.
  10. ^ "Rossum unlikely to turn lurid crime tale into riches". SignOnSanDiego.com Archived 2008-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Judge cuts $90 million from Rossum murder verdict" SignOnSanDiego.com
  12. ^ "Kristin Rossum's murder conviction appeal revived" SignOnSanDiego.com
  13. ^ ""Rossum v. Patrick, USCA9 No. 09-55666"" (PDF).
  14. ^ "American Beauty Was It Murder Or Suicide?". CBS News. May 7, 2009. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  15. ^ Rother, Caitlin. Arrest warrant issued for Kristin Rossum’s Australian lover. San Diego Reader, 2013-09-18.
  16. ^ http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/exclusive-american-beauty-murderers-exlover-dr-michael-robertson-speaks-about-his-badenclay-trial-cameo/story-fni0ffnk-1226992255485?nk=0ec0f2562c81b9d187f696a9ee243432
  17. ^ "Pretty Poison" – via www.imdb.com.

External links[edit]