Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday 29 November 2000

Dell urged daughter to lie, court hears

Father falsely accused of sexual abuse, girl testifies

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

PEMBROKE -- Cherrylle Dell's young daughter testified yesterday that her mother compelled her to falsely accuse her father, Scott Dell, of sexual abuse.

"It made me feel bad because I knew it wasn't true," the girl said.

She gave evidence at the first-degree murder trial of her mother, a 46-year-old Killaloe woman, who has pleaded not guilty to killing her estranged husband in a case that has been the talk of the Ottawa Valley. Mr. Dell, 44, died in December 1995 after drinking wine laced with antifreeze and his death was originally thought to be a suicide. However, police charged his wife two years later with first-degree murder, contending she duped Mr. Dell into drinking the lethal mix.

The Crown has contended that Mrs. Dell killed her husband in a "vendetta," to take from him his property and custody of their children. Pembroke Crown attorney Peter Barnes has also said false allegations that Mr. Dell was sexually abusive could be taken to show Mrs. Dell's enmity towards him.

The daughter, who cannot be named because of a court-ordered ban, said Mr. Dell never abused her. However, she told police, doctors and child protection officials otherwise at Mrs. Dell's insistence. "My mother wanted me to," she said.

The girl also said she saw antifreeze at her home when she lived with her mother on Boland Street in Killaloe. Mrs. Dell has been in custody since her arrest in December 1997. The girl has since moved away from Pembroke.

The girl said she recalled the antifreeze was in a yellow container the size of a box of Kleenex, and it was in a woodshed attached to the house.

She also said Mrs. Dell had punched and slapped her, and locked her in her room as punishment.

"Have you ever been scared of your mom?" Mr. Barnes asked.

"Yes I have," she replied.

"How about now?"

"Yeah."

The girl said she was "not that close" to her mother, who according to documents filed with the court, adopted the girl with Mr. Dell when she was a baby.

Much of the testimony this week has dealt with Mr. Dell's state of mind in the days and weeks prior to his death. The defence is expected to argue that Mr. Dell did indeed commit suicide. Mrs. Dell has told police that Mr. Dell had been depressed before he died and cancer had sprung out of remission.

Several of Mr. Dell's relatives yesterday testified to the contrary -- that Mr. Dell always seemed upbeat. His 41-year-old sister Maureen Dell said that a year before he died, after undergoing daily radiation treatments and then surgery, Mr. Dell "seemed very positive."

In October 1995, she continued, "he never seemed better."

Gail Chapman, Mrs. Dell's adopted sister, testified she had seen Mr. Dell on Boxing Day in 1995, and that her brother-in-law's mood was "fine ... as always."

She also testified that when she was much younger, she had been invited to go to bed with her sister and Mr. Dell. Ms. Chapman said she declined the invitation.

Later, when they were adults, Mrs. Dell asked Ms. Chapman to speak out about what had happened and tell authorities it had been Mr. Dell's doing.

"It was both their doing," she told the court.

Maureen Dell, Mr. Dell's sister, told the court about a conversation she had with Mrs. Dell soon after her brother died. "There was just so many things (in the conversation) that didn't make sense," she said.

When she asked Mrs. Dell about the cause of her brother's death, Mrs. Dell was "evasive."

When she asked her sister-in-law if funeral arrangements had been made and Mrs. Dell replied: "Didn't the funeral guy call you?"

Mrs. Dell told her sister-in-law that on the last night of his life, Mr. Dell telephoned her all night, "bothering" her, court heard.

Mrs. Dell told police in 1997 that she supported her husband when he was sick. However, Mr. Dell's aunt Loretta McCarthy testified that when Mr. Dell came to Ottawa for radiation treatments, his wife was not with him.

She also said she spoke to Mr. Dell's cancer specialist after her nephew's death and the specialist said he had given him "a clean bill of health."

An April 1996 autopsy found "no evidence of carcinoma" and that the cause of death was ethylene glycol poisoning.

Earlier yesterday, Larry McGee, a 38-year-old man who lives north of London, Ont., said he spoke to Mrs. Dell in July 1997 about her husband.

He told the court that after spending the better part of a day drinking with friends in Killaloe, he went with Mrs. Dell to her home.

"I was being kind of nosy," Mr. McGee said. "I asked her if she was married."

Mrs. Dell responded that her husband was dead and he had died after drinking antifreeze, Mr. McGee told the court.

"How?" Mr. McGee had asked.

"He grabbed the wrong bottle (of wine). I watched him drink it," Mrs. Dell replied, according to Mr. McGee.

He said he asked Mrs. Dell how the antifreeze got in the wine and she said she did not know.

"I was pretty sick," Mr. McGee testified. "It kind of turned me off real quick."

Mr. McGee also said Mrs. Dell told him that she was entitled to her husband's estate, which included the farm where he died. Mrs. Dell was "pretty hard up for money" and upset that it was taking so long to get it, Mr. McGee testified.

The trial, which is being heard by Ontario Superior Court Justice James Chadwick instead of a jury, continues today.

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen