Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday 5 December 2000

Woman testifies Dell often spoke of wanting spouse dead

Ex-friend paid to have Dell's cat euthanized after it was poisoned with antifreeze

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

PEMBROKE -- Cherrylle Dell loathed her husband, Scott, and wanted him dead, but she became impatient when it appeared that cancer would not take his life, court heard here yesterday.

Kim Knott, a former friend of Cherrylle Dell, testified that when Mrs. Dell spoke of Mr. Dell's throat cancer being in remission, she was livid. Mrs. Dell's fists were clenched and she was practically jumping off the floor as she asked, "Do you know where I can hire a hit man? I have to get rid of this guy. He's got to die," court heard.

Ms. Knott later said her friend could have been joking, but she maintained that Mrs. Dell on many occasions spoke of wanting Mr. Dell dead.

Mrs. Dell, 46, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 29, 1995, death of her estranged spouse. Mr. Dell, then 44, was found to have died after drinking wine laced with antifreeze. His death, more than a year after he underwent radiation therapy and surgery for his cancer, was originally thought to have been a suicide, and Mrs. Dell told authorities that Mr. Dell's cancer had flared up before his death.

However, Pembroke Crown attorney Peter Barnes hopes to persuade an Ontario Superior Court judge that Mrs. Dell duped her husband into drinking the poisoned wine.

Mrs. Knott said Mrs. Dell lived with her and her husband for several months in 1995. "It just happened she was there all the time," Mrs. Knott said. Eventually, Mrs. Knott was giving room and board to Mrs. Dell and two of her children, court heard.

Mrs. Knott also testified that she paid for Mrs. Dell's cat, Asia, to be put down, after the feline had been poisoned with antifreeze.

"(She) just asked if we would put it on our Visa," Mrs. Knott said.

After the veterinarian euthanized the cat, which Mrs. Dell said had been poisoned by neighbours, the Knotts and Mrs. Dell spoke for some time about antifreeze, Mrs. Knott said.

She said that her husband Randy stated that antifreeze was very sweet, and then Mrs. Dell "oddly" asked how much antifreeze would be needed to kill a person.

Mrs. Knott said her husband said that antifreeze could be mixed with orange juice or wine, and that if someone were to drink it in the dark, it would not be noticed.

Court has heard that after the Dells separated in 1992, Mrs. Dell accused Mr. Dell of sexually abusing their children.

The Crown contends the allegations were part of a vendetta that culminated three years later in Mr. Dell's murder.

Mrs. Knott said Mr. Dell calmly denied the abuse allegations when she confronted him. She also noted that the Dell children were overjoyed to see their father when he would visit.

"He didn't have a chance to get to the front door because the kids would be on him like glue as he was getting out of the truck," she said. "Why would they jump on him like he was the best thing in the world?"

Mrs. Knott said that Mr. Dell still loved his wife years after the separation and wanted to reconcile. She said that while Mrs. Dell spoke hatefully of her husband behind his back, she was sweetness and honey to him when they met.

Mr. Dell visited Mrs. Dell at the Knott home several times when his wife was convalescing after her skateboard injury, court heard. Before the visits, Mrs. Knott decorated Mrs. Dell's room with candles and incense and played beautician with her guest. "She would have to look perfect. Hair just so. Makeup just so," Mrs. Knott said.

But when Mr. Dell wasn't around, Mrs. Dell would often say, "I wish his cancer would hurry up and kill him," Mrs. Knott said. Mrs. Dell, she said, wanted to inherit Mr. Dell's farm, which she spoke of turning into a home for unwed mothers or a bed and breakfast.

Mrs. Knott admitted under cross-examination that she had had a falling-out with Mrs. Dell over money, but stressed that her memory was good and that she was aware of the oath she had taken in court.

In April 1997, Mrs. Dell told police that Mr. Dell in the weeks before his death had seen his throat cancer come out of remission and had refused to see a doctor. "He said he wanted to stay home. He wanted to die on the farm," Mrs. Dell told police.

Elsa Steenberg, a woman who formed a deep platonic friendship with Mr. Dell after his wife left him, testified to the contrary. "He never talked about dying," she said. "He never talked about suicide."

An autopsy report states that Mr. Dell died of ethylene glycol poisoning and a pathologist found no evidence of carcinoma.

Ms. Steenberg spoke almost daily to Mr. Dell on the telephone, and they conversed briefly on the last night of his life. A "preoccupied" Mr. Dell said that he was drinking Piat d'Or wine and seemed not to want to talk, Ms. Steenberg said.

A day later, Mr. Dell's body was found in his house, as was the tainted wine and a note filled with musings both lovesick and spiritual, apparently in reference to Mrs. Dell, who had also been on the telephone with him the previous night.

Mrs. Dell spoke to Ms. Steenberg after her husband died. "She told me she had told Scott he could let go now and her angel would take him to heaven," Ms. Steenberg testified.

Mrs. Dell also said since her husband was dead, she wanted his house, Ms. Steenberg added.

The trial, which began Nov. 20 and is expected to end in January, resumes today.

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen