Tuesday 21 November 2000
Ex-lover 'testifies' from the grave
In taped interviews, Cherrylle Dell is accused of spouse's antifreeze poisoningPeter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen
PEMBROKE -- A dead woman told tales in a courtroom yesterday, accusing her ex-lover, Cherrylle Dell, of murder.
Killaloe resident Nancy Fillmore died in a fire two years ago.
Julie Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen / Cherrylle Dell, left, is escorted from the Pembroke courthouse yesterday. Mrs. Dell is on trial, charged with first-degree murder in the poisoning death of her estranged husband, Scott Dell.
Although Nancy Fillmore died in a fire more than two years ago, the 39-year-old Killaloe woman was interviewed by police months before she died. Yesterday, videotaped interviews were played in court at the first-degree murder trial of Mrs. Dell, in which Ms. Fillmore stated that Mrs. Dell duped her estranged husband, Scott Dell, into drinking wine laced with antifreeze.
"I watched her pour the antifreeze into the wine," Ms. Fillmore was heard to say. "I was freaking out and she kept telling me to shut up. I went along with it."
Mrs. Dell, 46, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Mr. Dell, who was found dead in his home after Christmas in 1995. He was 44 and had cancer, and police originally said his death was a suicide.
Mrs. Dell also faces a separate first-degree murder charge and trial in connection with the August 1997 death of Ms. Fillmore. In the present trial, the videotaped interviews of Ms. Fillmore are the subject of a voir dire -- a trial within a trial -- before Ontario Superior Court Justice James Chadwick, who is hearing the case. A jury is not sitting, and Judge Chadwick is to rule at a later date on the admissibility of the police tapes.
The case has been the talk of the Ottawa Valley for years, not simply because of the bisexual love triangle, but also because Mrs. Dell was a flamboyant, attractive woman known by Killaloe residents for her outlandish stories and colourful manner.
During her March 18, 1997 statement to police, Ms. Fillmore said that Mrs. Dell was her common-law partner when Mr. Dell died. She said that Mrs. Dell at first spoke of wanting to shoot Mr. Dell during hunting season. "She said she could shoot," Ms. Fillmore said. "Her father taught her how to shoot."
Court heard that according to Ms. Fillmore, Mrs. Dell later opted to poison Mr. Dell with antifreeze. Mrs. Dell went so far as to conceal her identity and consult the Poison Control Centre to determine how much antifreeze would be lethal, Ms. Fillmore told police.
Ms. Fillmore said that Mr. Dell, while estranged and aware of Mrs. Dell's lesbian affair, wanted to reunite with his wife of more than 20 years and the mother of their children. Meanwhile, Mrs. Dell, who had met Ms. Fillmore in the spring of 1995 through a Citizen personals ad, manipulated Mr. Dell. "I saw her play him for a fool so many times," Ms. Fillmore told police.
Ms. Fillmore said that while Mr. Dell was once an atheist, he had become more concerned with spirituality. Mrs. Dell, she said, told her spouse that she had had a dream which foretold that he would have visions of their future if he drank wine that she gave him.
Ms. Fillmore said that Mr. Dell visited his wife a few days after Christmas in 1995, took the proferred bottle of Piat D'Or, and went home. He telephoned Mrs. Dell several times that night, Ms. Fillmore told police.
Mr. Dell was soon discovered dead, his record player playing, his Christmas lights on, court heard.
Mrs. Dell told Ms. Fillmore to keep the poisoning a secret, court heard. According to Ms. Fillmore, Mrs. Dell said that Ms. Fillmore, jealous lover that she was, would be blamed for the poisoning were it to come to light.
Ms. Fillmore is seen to cry and sob during the police videotape, and Mrs. Dell in the prisoner's box also appeared emotional as the tape was played, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.
Ms. Fillmore accused Mrs. Dell of killing Mr. Dell in the second of two police videotapes played in court yesterday. In the first, given hours earlier on March 18, 1997, Ms. Fillmore said that Mrs. Dell months after Mr. Dell's death was consumed with the idea of having another baby, and was especially keen on a black baby.
Mrs. Dell hatched tried to obtain a child by duping authorities into thinking that her infant, Bijoula Starr Dell, had been abducted, Ms. Fillmore told police. The child never existed, although Mrs. Dell coached Ms. Fillmore into telling authorities that she had assisted in delivering the baby at home, Ms. Fillmore told police.
Mrs. Dell, Ms. Fillmore told police, also placed classified ads hoping to meet a black man. Eventually she did, court heard. "I knew it was insanity," Ms. Fillmore told police.
Ms. Fillmore told police that when she first met Mrs. Dell, she had thought her to be sweet and gentle. Over time, she came to wonder if Mrs. Dell was with her for her money. Police were told that Mrs. Dell eventually was bitter, sarcastic and verbally abusive.
During the March 1997 interview, Ms. Fillmore told police that she left Mrs. Dell's home about three weeks earlier. "I felt trapped. She blew up," she said.
Before the videotapes were played in court, Pembroke Crown attorney Peter Barnes conceded that Ms. Fillmore had several reasons to lie to police. "She had been disappointed in love," he said.
The two women, Mr. Barnes also noted, were in small claims court -- Ms. Fillmore was suing Mrs. Dell for $6,000 she said she had given her.
Defence lawyer Robert Selkirk commented that Ms. Fillmore's story was filled with the stuff of small-town gossip. "This knowledge was out on the street," he said.
The voir dire continues today.
Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen