Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday 22 November 2000

Accused killer practised 'weird' rituals'

Cherrylle Dell got out witchcraft books after giving husband lethal wine, court hears

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

Julie Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen / Court heard that Cherrylle Dell, above, told Nancy Fillmore that Ms. Fillmore would be blamed for Scott Dell's death.

PEMBROKE -- To hear Nancy Fillmore speak, the death of John Scott Dell was a New Age killing, with witchcraft and visions of angels accompanying wine spiked with a lethal dose of antifreeze.

"You mentioned about her (Cherrylle Dell) carrying out some sort of witchcraft rituals prior to giving the bottle to him?" then Det.-Const. Ken Leppert asked Ms. Fillmore in a 1997 interview.

"No. It was right after," Ms. Fillmore said. "She got out her witchcraft books and lit candles and was saying all these weird, I don't know, what you call them, rituals or prayers or whatever.

"They don't make sense to me because that's not what I believe in," she said.

Several of Ms. Fillmore's videotaped statements to police were entered as evidence yesterday at the first-degree murder trial of Ms. Dell. The 46-year-old Killaloe woman has pleaded not guilty to killing her estranged husband, who was found dead in his home in late December 1995.

Mr. Dell, a 44-year-old man who had cancer, was found to have died after drinking wine laced with antifreeze. His death was originally declared a suicide, until Mrs. Dell was charged with first-degree murder in December 1997.

Ms. Fillmore, who was Mrs. Dell's lover when Mr. Dell died, died in an August 1997 fire. Mrs. Dell faces another first-degree murder charge and trial in connection with Ms. Fillmore's death. The second murder charge was laid this summer.

Since the trial pertaining to Mr. Dell's death began this week, the Crown has submitted four videotapes and transcripts of police interviews with Ms. Fillmore for the consideration of Ontario Superior Court Justice James Chadwick, who is hearing the case. In an exception for murder trials, a jury is not sitting.

In the present trial, the videotaped interviews of Ms. Fillmore are the subject of a voir dire -- a trial within a trial. Judge Chadwick is to rule in the next few days 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 and the deaths of Mrs. Dell's lovers, but also because Mrs. Dell was a flamboyant, attractive woman known by Killaloe residents for her outlandish stories.

According to transcripts filed in court, Ms. Fillmore told police that on the last night of his life, Mr. Dell had apparently come to Mrs. Dell's house at her request.

Mrs. Dell told him that she had had a dream that he would have spiritual visions after drinking wine and she gave him a bottle of Piat D'Or, Ms. Fillmore said.

"She said she was trying to help him on his spiritual journey," Ms. Fillmore told police. "She was loaning him books and one of them was this (The) Celestine Prophecy, and it was about important coincidences in your life.

"So she used that in this dialogue ... 'this is an important coincidence -- I had a dream, you're supposed to drink some wine and have visions and I just happen to have a bottle of wine,' " Ms. Fillmore said.

After Mr. Dell returned to his home with the bottle, he began phoning Mrs. Dell almost hourly, Ms. Fillmore said.

"He said he had just started drinking the wine. He was listening to their old music on the record player. He was doing a lot of thinking," she said.

"She (Mrs. Dell) said she would keep the answering machine off or sit right by the phone all night until he just needed to stop talking," Ms. Fillmore continued.

"His last call, she said, was at five o'clock in the morning. No, I came back downstairs. Yes, because I had heard her actually say, 'Are you all right?'

"He was saying ... 'You're here with me. I can see your angel spirit,' " Ms. Fillmore said. "I don't know if this is part of these visions of if he was just making it up. Or if things were getting to him ... by drinking the wine with the antifreeze, like I think he was losing his mind."

Ms. Fillmore, a former Ottawa woman who met Mrs. Dell in the spring of 1995 after placing a Citizen personals ad and then moved in with her, also told police that she bought the antifreeze and wine for Mrs. Dell.

She said that after Mr. Dell died, Mrs. Dell told her that if word of the poisoning got out, then Ms. Fillmore would be blamed, since she fit the role of a jealous lover.

Ms. Fillmore and Mrs. Dell broke up and Ms. Fillmore moved out of Mrs. Dell's house a few weeks before she spoke to police, court has heard.

Ms. Fillmore recounted a number of exchanges she had with Mrs. Dell. She said that in one, Mrs. Dell said: "This is how you end all your relationships, don't you?" Her reply was: "Well, at least I don't kill them."

Defence lawyer Robert Selkirk said yesterday that he intends to call evidence today suggesting that Ms. Fillmore was "on a vendetta" against his client, who apparently had begun a relationship with a man in the hopes of having a baby just before her spurned lesbian lover went to police.

Mr. Selkirk contended that Ms. Fillmore, in addition to contacting police with her allegations, went to the Children's Aid Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, hoping to have authorities seize Mrs. Dell's children and pets. Ms. Fillmore wanted Mrs. Dell to feel as she did, "dumped on the side of the road," Mr. Selkirk argued.

However, Mr. Selkirk later did state that his client "essentially ... was running a puppy mill."

The trial, which is expected to last until late January, is to resume today.

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen