Globe and Mail

Man's last words tell of great love

Ontario trial hears Scott Dell's final note was letter to wife charged with his death

ERIN ANDERSSEN
CRIME REPORTER
Thursday, November 23, 2000

PEMBROKE, ONT. -- The final note of Scott Dell's life reads like a plaintive, sophomoric love letter, written, police believe, in childlike scrawl by a man who was chugging the poisoned bottle of Piat D'or his estranged wife concocted for him.

"Dear Mr. Fantasy," he begins. "I feel like holding you close to me like never before. I feel like making love to you. I feel like all the bad stuff would go away."

He gushes on, writing quite obviously toCherrylle Dell, his teenage sweetheart, who had, by then, left him in a tangled mess of "bad stuff." After 24 years of marriage, she ran off with a female lover, and accused him -- falsely, according to a judge -- of sexually abusing their children.

Still, he wrote of his love. "I can't help it," he says. "I don't want to want you. I don't want to be rejected."

What Ms. Dell would tell police the day after her husband was found half-naked and mysteriously dead in his Ottawa Valley farmhouse in December of 1995 -- but long before she was charged with his death -- was that Scott Dell had phoned her several times the night before, sounding "slurry" and "really depressed."

But what Ms. Dell never mentioned, and what police would not find out until 15 months later when her former lover blabbed about Mr. Dell's death to an unsuspecting detective, is that he allegedly turned up at his wife's home earlier that night, accepted a bottle of wine, and was ordered to go home, drink it, and await the "visions" that might determine whether his wife was ever going to take him back.

Such is the story passed on by Nancy Fillmore, the jilted lover, who decided to come clean with the police in March of 1997, more than a year after she claimed to have supplied the wine and the antifreeze that poisoned Mr. Dell.

Ms. Fillmore is dead, killed, police contend, in a fire that was deliberately set.

It is her statement that shifted Mr. Dell's death from a suicide to an alleged murder, and brought his dying note to a Pembroke courtroom yesterday, where Ms. Dell is being tried for the first-degree murder of her husband.

The autopsy conducted on Mr. Dell's body, which was, coincidentally, discovered by the first woman, Gay Doherty, for whom his wife had deserted him, found that he had not died of cancer, as originally suspected. (He had recently received treatment for tumours in his throat.) In fact, there was no cancer to speak of, the coroner determined, and strangely, no alcohol in his system.

Instead, the toxicology report turned up gobs of ethylene glycol in his blood -- the very antifreeze that had been found in a bottle of wine and a glass next to his note.

The note, the autopsy and the statement by Ms. Dell were produced in court yesterday as part of continuing arguments over whether Ms. Fillmore's videotaped interview with police is admissible. The defence is arguing she had a vendetta against Ms. Dell, and a motive to lie.

But Crown prosecutor Peter Barnes told the judge yesterday police have uncovered other evidence that appears to corroborate her story. They've tracked down a receipt for a bottle of Piat d'Or that shows Ms. Fillmore bought it at the store she said she went to and for the amount she said she paid.

Ms. Fillmore told police Ms. Dell faked an emergency call to a poison hot line to find out how much antifreeze she'd need to kill her husband. The hot line, Mr. Barnes says, has a record of such a call.

And then, at the end of the day, a friend of Ms. Fillmore's, Kim Meisel, was called to testify that the dead woman had bore Ms. Dell no malice, only regret for their parting. (Ms. Dell is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Ms. Fillmore's death.)

"She was in love with her," Ms. Meisel said. "She loved her. She loved the children. But at the same time she was afraid for her life. She knew she wouldn't make it here today to testify."

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