Thursday 23 November 2000
Court hears dying man's final thoughts
Scott Dell scribbled notes while drinking lethal winePeter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen
PEMBROKE -- As Linda Ronstadt crooned love songs in the background, Scott Dell scribbled down the musings of a dying man.
Scott Dell's death was initially ruled a suicide until evidence of ethylene glycol poisoning was discovered.
It was early in the morning of Dec. 29, 1995, and he had only hours left to live, although if police and a prosecutor are correct, Mr. Dell did not know it.
Instead, the 44-year-old Killaloe man apparently sat by the telephone, talking occasionally to his estranged wife, drinking wine she had allegedly given him, committing to paper the thoughts in his head and his side of conversations.
Mr. Dell's handwritten notes, seized when police investigated his death, were made public yesterday in the courtroom where Cherrylle Dell stands accused of fatally poisoning her spouse with a gift of antifreeze-laced white wine. Mrs. Dell, now 46, has pleaded not guilty to a count of first-degree murder.
"What did you think was going to happen if I drank a bottle of wine, listening to music we used to listen to? I'm going to think about you and me together," Mr. Dell wrote.
"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. You and I are stuck because of all the bad stuff that has happened to us (in the) last three years. We need to make it go away," he wrote.
On the last of three pages, Mr. Dell, who in the mid-1990s was diagnosed as having cancer, wrote: "I was probably supposed to die but my life was spared. I don't know why. That bothers me.
"Our lives are going by so fast," he concluded. Apparently, he then put down his pen, went upstairs, and died.
Mr. Dell's death was originally ruled a suicide. An Ottawa pathologist found the cause of death to be ethylene glycol poisoning and noted there was "no evidence of carcinoma."
But in March 1997, a woman who had been Mrs. Dell's live-in lover when Mr. Dell died, went to police and told them that Mrs. Dell had given her husband antifreeze-laced wine to take home, and urged him to drink it so that he would have spiritual visions of their future. Mrs. Dell was charged with murder in December 1997.
Ontario Superior Court Justice James Chadwick, who is hearing the case instead of a jury, will determine in the next few days if the videotaped statements of that woman, Nancy Fillmore, are to be admitted as evidence.
Ms. Fillmore is also dead, having perished at age 40 in an August 1997 fire, five months after she broke up with Mrs. Dell and went to police. Mrs. Dell faces another first-degree murder charge and trial in connection with Ms. Fillmore's death.
In addition to Mr. Dell's final writings, Pembroke Crown sttorney Peter Barnes also made public the initial statements to police given by Mrs. Dell and Gay Doherty, the woman who discovered Mr. Dell's body.
Ms. Doherty, who was Mrs. Dell's lover prior to Ms. Fillmore, told police she found Mr. Dell lying in a fetal position, naked from the waist down and with a sweater on. Mr. Dell, she told police, was "a really funny colour, like grey," and his fingers were "a really strange blue colour."
"I noted a bottle of wine sitting on a little desk with a phone in the hallway," Ms. Doherty said. "There was a liquid in it which did not look like wine, or something strange added to it.
"We did notice some writing paper beside the phone," she continued. "We tried to read it but it did not make much sense."
Mrs. Dell told police she had spoken to her husband on the phone the night before he was found dead.
"Scott called me. He sounded really down and really depressed. He spoke about a friend (who) had hung himself. He mentioned dreams and that he would wake up and the dream was going on. He talked about lots of things and sounded slurry. He didn't sound right. He sounded like he had been drinking.
"I believe the last time I spoke with him was around 4 a.m ... He sounded fine. He had perked up. He was going to go to bed, go to sleep," she told police.
The next day, Mr. Dell did not show up to pick up his children, and Ms. Doherty, after speaking to Mrs. Dell, went to Mr. Dell's house, her statement says.
Defence lawyer Robert Selkirk yesterday called several witnesses in an effort to discredit Ms. Fillmore and convince Judge Chadwick to declare her videotaped statements inadmissible. Mr. Selkirk is expected to argue today that Ms. Fillmore had motives to lie to police, including her own "vendetta" against Mrs. Dell.
However, prosecution witness Kim Meisel, who befriended Ms. Fillmore before she died, testified otherwise. "She (Ms. Fillmore) was in love with her (Mrs. Dell). She loved her ... but at the same time she was afraid for her life," Ms. Meisel said. "She knew she wouldn't make it here today to testify," she said.
Court heard that, in addition to making allegations against Mrs. Dell to police, Ms. Fillmore went to Family and Child Services authorities and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in late March and April 1997. Ms. Fillmore alleged that Mrs. Dell gave her children sleeping medication and neglected them, although she was willing to spend $200 on a beauty treatment.
Family services worker Nisha Stoparczyk told the court that upon visiting Mrs. Dell, she found adequate food in the house and no locks on the children's doors as alleged. She also said that Mrs. Dell told her she had been expecting the visit.
Mrs. Dell also said she had had a baby named Bijoula, who was now in Jamaica with its father, Ms. Stoparczyk said. Mrs. Dell's other children said they had seen Bijoula, court also heard.
However, Ms. Fillmore told police that Bijoula didn't exist, and that Mrs. Dell, anxious to have a baby, concocted a hoax about a non-existent baby. Mrs. Dell had thought of several plans to obtain one, including kidnapping a stranger's child, Ms. Fillmore said.
The trial, which is expected to last until late January, continues today.
Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen