Globe and Mail

Ex-lover haunts murder trial

By ERIN ANDERSSEN
The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, November 22

Pemborke, Ont. — She was, if what her lover says is true, a woman waiting for her besotted husband to do her bidding and die. And yet Cherrylle Dell passed the night about as calmly as any mother with her little children in bed and a movie on the tube.

In the bizarre tale that would unfold many months later at the local police station, she supposedly sent Scott Dell home with orders to drink the wine she'd laced with antifreeze, promising he'd have visions about their chance for a future together.

Their marrage in ruins, they lived a few kilometres apart; she in a red brick house in the tiny village of Killaloe with her new romantic interest — a woman named Nancy Fillmore, who is the source of this tale — and he in the old farmhouse where they'd once raised their children together, and where he apparently hoped they might mend things.

He would still have been driving home that night in Dec. 1995 by the time Ms. Dell doused the lights in the house, lit candles in the windows and chanted spells from a book on witchcraft — for protection, she allegedly told Ms. Fillmore.

"She obviously believes she can do a chant and nothing's going to happen to her," Ms. Fillmore would eventually tell police in a videotaped statment, "and you know, she almost got away with it."

Were it not for the garrulous Ms. Fillmore, the police would certainly never have taken a second look at the death of Scott Dell. The case had been closed for two years, ruled a suicide and never really investigated; the main reason being that no one believed a grown man, even one battling throat cancer, could gulp down a slick of antifreeze-tainted wine and not know it — unless, that is, he wanted to die.

It's a mystery not yet solved in the evidence slowly coming out at Ms. Dell's first-degree murder trial in Pembroke, but Ms. Fillmore's story, spilled to police in several interviews in March 1997, pointed investigators in a new direction; towards the grieving wife who might have motive to dispatch a bothersome, estranged husband.

What the judge hearing the case has to decide, is whether he can even consider Ms. Fillmore's version of events. She appoached police only after being dumped by Ms. Dell, and in the midst of her criminal allegations she called children's services to report alleged child abuse, the SPCA to complain about Ms. Dell's dogs and also filed a civil suit to retrieve some money. All of which the defence has characterized as "vendetta evidence," and which the crowns admits gives her reason to lie.

All that's left of Ms. Fillmore is those rambling videotaped statements. She died in August 1997 when her apartment building was torched. To add to suspicions, the authorities allege that Ms. Dell herself arranged to have the fire set, and have charged her with a second count of first-degree murder. Ms. Fillmore implicates herself in the statements, saying she bought the wine and provided the antifreeze, but that she never thought Ms. Dell would follow through. Ms. Dell invited her husband over that December night, telling him, Ms. Fillmore said, that "she was trying to help him on his spiritual journey." And Mr. Dell was infatuated enough to buy it.

"I guess if you're really in love with someone like I think he was with her, this story makes sense," Ms. Fillmore told police.

He called for the first time just as Ms. Dell was finishing her spell, Ms. Fillmore said. And according to what she was later told, he said he was playing their old records and remembering how they'd first met, when he lit her cigarette at a party. She'd been just 15, he a few years older. They married when she was 17.

He called about every hour, Ms. Fillmore said. Each time, Ms. Dell would turn away from the movie and ask him if he was having visions yet. At one point he allegedly told her that he could see her "angel spirit"in the room. And then he phoned one last time, said he felt sick and that he was going to bed. He died that night.

Ms. Fillmore is the crown's key witness — the entire reason this case is now even proceeding — and what happens now to her statements will determine the future direction of the trial.

It is eerie, though, to watch her on tape, speaking so candidly of her love and the nastiness at the end of it, given her own fate not five months later. "And one time," she tells Detective Constable Ken Leppert, "we had this argument and Cherrylle said, 'this is how you end all your relationships, don't you?' And I said, 'well, at least I don't kill them'."

She says it like a boast, as if proud of her comeback.

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