Ottawa Citizen
Friday 24 November 2000

Lover 'had reason' to lie

Defence calls Cherrylle Dell's lover 'vengeful'

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

PEMBROKE -- Dumped, bitter and vengeful, a troubled Nancy Fillmore maliciously accused her ex-lover, Cherrylle Dell, of murder as part of a systematic plan to ruin her life, a defence lawyer contended yesterday.

"She's damaged goods long before the breakup with Mrs. Dell," said Robert Selkirk. "It's apparent, in my submission, that put her over the edge."

Mrs. Dell, a 46-year-old Killaloe woman, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 29, 1995, death of her estranged husband, Scott.

This week, as her trial before a judge began, court has been concerned solely with whether the statements that Ms. Fillmore gave to police should be admitted as evidence.

Ms. Fillmore, a former Ottawa woman, was Mrs. Dell's live-in lover when Mr. Dell died, and it was her unsolicited statements to police that prompted the investigation and finally the murder charge against Mrs. Dell in December 1997. Ms. Fillmore died at age 39 in an August 1997 fire. Mrs. Dell faces a separate first-degree murder charge and trial in connection with the death of her former lover.

Mr. Dell, who was 44 when he died, was originally thought to have committed suicide by drinking wine laced with anti-freeze. Ms. Fillmore told police Mrs. Dell gave her estranged husband a bottle of poisoned Piat D'Or and encouraged the lovesick man to drink it so that he would have spiritual visions.

Pembroke Crown attorney Peter Barnes has already conceded that Ms. Fillmore had possible reasons to lie to police, not the least of which was that she was disappointed in love. Mr. Selkirk yesterday explored this contention in detail.

When the videotapes were played here earlier this week, court heard that Ms. Fillmore became involved with Mrs. Dell through a Citizen personals ad and soon Ms. Fillmore was driving to Killaloe every weekend. "It happened too fast and I slept with her and I was hooked," Ms. Fillmore told police.

The relationship ended in March 1997, court has heard, when Mrs. Dell abandoned Ms. Fillmore at a shopping mall, leaving her to hitchhike home, and refused to give her back her belongings.

Some days later, Ms. Fillmore called police with a story of murder. She also went to authorities alleging that Mrs. Dell neglected her children and her pets.

She also launched a claim in small claims court for the money and her belongings. She was successful, although on the day a sheriff's office writ was executed to seize the property, Ms. Fillmore later died in the fire.

Mr. Selkirk argued that jealousy, possessiveness and even racism motivated Ms. Fillmore because Mrs. Dell, just days after giving her the boot, took up with a black man.

"Not only is her lesbian lover with a man ... but also the fact that it's a black man is upsetting to Ms. Fillmore," Mr. Selkirk said.

He noted that when police asked Ms. Fillmore why she came forward, she replied: "It did have something to do with the way she's treated me lately."

"That's the real reason," Mr. Selkirk said.

Ms. Fillmore's statement to police, he added, was hardly unbiased when she blurted out: "I hope she burns in hell for what she's done to me and other people."

Given that Ms. Fillmore had clear motives to lie, and that the defence cannot cross-examine her, her statements should not be allowed as evidence, Mr. Selkirk contended.

Prosecutor Barnes argued that during the police interviews, which lasted more than six hours, Ms. Fillmore was subjected to questioning that was the "next best thing" to cross-examination.

The richness of detail to Ms. Fillmore's story is "a badge of credibility," Mr. Barnes also said.

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen