National Post

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June 23, 2000

Wife's work searched for poison sources
Funeral held for husband who died on Sunday
Kalvin Reid
National Post

WELLAND, Ont. - Niagara police visited the community newspaper yesterday where Maura Cabrera worked part-time, looking for chemicals they believe may have been used in her husband's poisoning.

Police officials said they were interested in toxins used in the print room of the Welland Tribune.

"The reason we went there is because [Ms. Cabrera] worked there, and they do have access to the toxins and chemicals," said Inspector Donna Moody.

Ms. Cabrera, 29, was arrested by Niagara Regional Police on Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of her common-law husband last week.

Rick Sawyer was admitted to Welland County General Hospital last Friday complaining of sickness and impaired vision. The 28-year-old was diagnosed with poisoning, and transferred to Hotel Dieu hospital in St. Catharines, Ont., where he slipped into a coma and died on Sunday.

Peter Bergeron, production manager at the Tribune, said officers were looking specifically at blanket wash and fountain solution, two different chemicals used to clean components of the printing press. He said officers told him they will be returning on Sunday to take samples and pictures. The chemicals in question are easily accessible to Tribune employees, he added.

Results from a toxicology test being done in Toronto are not expected for another two or three months, but Insp. Moody is hoping the toxin that killed Mr. Sawyer will be known to police in a matter of days.

"I hope to have the base type of poison used in the next 24 to 48 hours," Insp. Moody said. "I would like to eliminate the rumour going around that he was just drinking moonshine. Moonshine doesn't do that to you.

"However, that doesn't mean if someone pours you a glass of moonshine, they can't add something to it."

Family and friends of Mr. Sawyer -- including Ms. Cabrera's parents -- gathered for his funeral yesterday at the Eglise du Sacre-Coeur Catholic Church in Welland.

Clustered in pews near the front of the cavernous church, about 100 mourners said goodbye to their friend, father and son, affectionately known as "Rickman."

About halfway through the 45-minute funeral Mass, conducted in both English and French, Ms. Cabrera's father, Carlos, left the church with the couple's child Ricky Jr., 5. Ricky Jr. was crying softly, calling out quietly for his "daddy."

Ms. Cabrera also has a 10-year-old son, Jean-Paul, from a previous marriage. Both boys lived with the couple in a three-bedroom townhouse in Welland.

As the pallbearers carried the blue-grey casket out of the church, the procession passed just a few metres from the spot at the top of the church steps where Carlos Cabrera chose to console his grieving grandson.

Ricky Jr., clinging tightly to his grandfather, and his half-brother Jean-Paul, watched as the pallbearers loaded the casket into a waiting hearse. The car quietly slipped away, leaving a bouquet of flowers on the curb in memory of their father.

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