Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday 6 December 2000

Dell performed 'voodoo thing' on doll, court hears

Woman charged with killing husband made doll to look like him: lesbian lover

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

Lynn Ball, The Ottawa Citizen / Gay Doherty, who discovered Scott Dell's body at his house, noted there was a bottle of wine beside a telephone on a desk, and in a nearby wine glass there was an 'oily substance.'

Lynn Ball, The Ottawa Citizen / Gay Doherty, above, told court she wanted to end her relationship with Cherrylle Dell after three months.

PEMBROKE -- With her years of celibacy long behind her, Gay Doherty embarked on a relationship with Cherrylle Dell, expecting sophisticated lesbian love in the Ottawa Valley.

"I thought I was going to have a smart, New York cocktail kind of affair," Ms. Doherty testified here yesterday.

Instead, she became involved with a Killaloe woman she said once performed a bizarre, voodoo-like ritual on a home-made doll made to resemble her estranged husband.

"She went and purchased ... some kind of waxy material and did this voodoo thing, made it look like Scott, and put ropes and ribbons and pins in it, said certain things over it, and then I think she buried it," Ms. Doherty said.

About 3 1/2 years after Ms. Doherty broke up the Dell marriage, she was the person who discovered Mr. Dell's poisoned, lifeless body, curled in a fetal position on the floor of his son's room.

"I started screaming, 'He's here, he's here,' " Ms. Doherty said.

Her former lover, now 46, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 29, 1995, death of Mr. Dell, the father of their three children. Mr. Dell died after drinking wine laced with antifreeze, and his death was originally thought to be a suicide.

Pembroke Crown attorney Peter Barnes hopes to prove Mrs. Dell duped her husband into drinking from a bottle of poisoned Piat d'Or so she could claim his farm.

A U.S. citizen born in New York, Ms. Doherty had come to the Pembroke area at 18. From 1971 to 1985, she worked for the Roman Catholic Church, making a promise to be celibate and obedient, similar to a nun's vows. In the mid-1980s, she found that she needed to leave her "rarefied" calling and "experience life." She received a bishop's dispensation and some years later, according to documents filed in court, Ms. Doherty met Mrs. Dell at an incest survivors' group in the early 1990s.

"We were attracted to one another," said Ms. Doherty, 51. "Eventually, we became involved."

Mrs. Dell left her husband and children for Ms. Doherty, although Ms. Doherty testified that after three months, she herself wanted to end the relationship.

"I desperately wanted out," Ms. Doherty said. "I felt like my life was being totally consumed."

She said that she stayed with Mrs. Dell because she cared for the Dell children. "They were important to me. They were the only reason I remained in that relationship."

Ms. Doherty said that when she raised leaving the relationship with Mrs. Dell, Mrs. Dell took an overdose of medication and ripped up a gift of poetry that Ms. Doherty had written for her.

Ms. Doherty did leave Mrs. Dell in 1994 but they kept in touch. Ms. Doherty learned that Mr. Dell had been diagnosed with cancer, and that his illness pleased Mrs. Dell, court heard.

"She didn't seem to be upset by it," she testified. "It felt like an answer to a prayer. The guy would die. She would get what she wanted."

Ms. Doherty said that in October 1995, when she lived in Texas, Mrs. Dell called to say that she was planning to buy a house, and to sell Mr. Dell's farm house, which she would inherit when he died. "She fully expected he would die," she said.

Ms. Doherty visited Mrs. Dell that Christmas. On Dec. 28, she visited Mrs. Dell at the rented house she shared with her new lover, Nancy Fillmore. For the entire visit, Mrs. Dell ignored Ms. Doherty, preferring to speak on the telephone. "She was speaking to Scott," Ms. Doherty said.

The next day, Ms. Doherty visited again. Court heard that Mrs. Dell then told her that she had spoken to Mr. Dell continuously until 4 a.m. Mrs. Dell told Ms. Doherty that Mr. Dell's doctor had given him drastic news and that he would die in the next few days.

Mr. Dell was to come by that night to pick up his children, but he did not arrive. Ms. Doherty offered to check on him at his farm. She went there and found a cold, dark house, with the Christmas lights still on and a record still spinning on the record player, court heard. "I started becoming really apprehensive," she said.

She returned to Mrs. Dell's house, saying she wanted someone to return with her to search Mr. Dell's home and property. Neither Mrs. Dell nor Ms. Fillmore wanted to go, she said.

According to Ms. Doherty, Mrs. Dell responded: "I can't cope. I can't cope. I can't cope."

Ms. Doherty returned to the house with two male friends and found Mr. Dell's body upstairs, naked but for a blue sweater.

She noted that in a downstairs hallway there was a bottle of wine beside a telephone on a desk, and in a nearby wine glass there was an "oily substance."

She said that when she went back to Mrs. Dell's house, Mrs. Dell had already been told by a phone caller that her husband was dead. "(She) seemed to have no reaction at all. She asked what he looked like," Ms. Doherty said.

Under cross-examination, Ms. Doherty said she had also considered Mrs. Dell to have been "dazed" and "in shock" by the news.

The final minutes of court time yesterday were spent examining eight 1.5-litre Piat d'Or wine bottles that had been prepared by a police officer. The bottles contained various mixtures of wine and Prestone antifreeze. There was little difference in the appearance of the green bottles. But when their contents were decanted, some mixes ranged in colour from almost fluorescent green to a light yellow depending on the amount of antifreeze that had been included.

At the request of Ontario Superior Court Justice James Chadwick, who is hearing the case without a jury, OPP Const. Colin Reinke sniffed at a glass that had been poured from a bottle containing a two-to-one mix of wine and antifreeze. It smelled like wine, the officer said.

In the prisoner's box, Mrs. Dell paid rapt attention to the multicoloured display of liquids, at one point standing to gain a better view.

The trial, which began Nov. 20, resumes today. Judge Chadwick said he hopes to give his decision before the end of January.

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.