Ottawa Citizen
Saturday 27 January 2001

Dell murder verdict set for Feb. 2

Crown closes case by focusing on accused's ability to dupe husband

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

Cherrylle Dell might have duped her estranged husband into drinking a bottle of poisoned Piat d'Or by telling him the off-colour liquid was homemade wine, a prosecutor asserted yesterday.

In any event, Mrs. Dell's sway over her husband, Scott Dell, was such that she would have been able to convince him to accept and later drink the lethal yellow-green concoction, Pembroke Crown attorney Peter Barnes argued.

The 46-year-old Killaloe woman is accused of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Mr. Dell, who was 44 when he died in December 1995. He had apparently drunk more than half a litre of wine laced with antifreeze. While his death was originally considered a suicide, the Crown is seeking to prove that Mrs. Dell, driven by hatred of her husband and a need for money, tricked him into drinking himself to death.

More than four dozen witnesses have testified for the Crown since the trial began Nov. 20, including the Dells' daughters, relatives and neighbours. Two independent witnesses have each said Mrs. Dell confessed to giving her husband poisoned wine.

Ontario Superior Court Justice James Chadwick has heard testimony that on the last night of his life, Mr. Dell spent hours talking to Mrs. Dell on the phone, apparently scribbling his thoughts and snippets of conversation on loose-leaf paper.

Mr. Barnes argued that given evidence of Mrs. Dell's loathing of her husband, she would normally have "blown Scott Dell off in a minute." He continued: "It is inconceivable that Cherrylle Dell would talk to Scott Dell on the phone unless she had a motive for doing so."

Mr. Barnes contended that Mrs. Dell kept her husband on the phone, apparently by talking about a possible reconciliation, so that he would be too preoccupied to call a hospital as the effects of the poisoned wine kicked in.

The defence has argued that Mr. Dell's final writings, which speak of "letting go" and an "angel spirit," could be taken for a suicide note.

But noting that Mr. Dell wrote: "I feel like holding you close to me like never before ... I don't want to want you ... I don't want to be rejected," Mr. Barnes contended that the writing helps show that Mrs. Dell kept her husband on the telephone with talk of reconciliation.

Mrs. Dell betrayed her guilty conscience hours after her husband died, Mr. Barnes said, when she refused to go to the farm with the people who found her husband dead. She tried to have her husband cremated, and put off calling Mr. Dell's family. Mrs. Dell repeatedly told "poppycock" stories about his final days to hide the cause of his death and support the idea that he committed suicide, Mr. Barnes argued.

In a videotaped April 1997 interview with police, Mrs. Dell "panicked" in trying to discredit Nancy Fillmore, her ex-lover, whom she thought had implica-ted her in the death of her husband, Mr. Barnes said.

While defence lawyer Robert Selkirk has argued that Mr. Dell in all likelihood committed suicide, Mr. Barnes said Mr. Dell was a "selfless man, a positive man, who was dedicated to his children" and who would not have killed himself.

Mr. Selkirk yesterday contended that the Crown has no hard, direct evidence against Mrs. Dell. As well, he told the judge that the Crown is asking him to make unfair inferences from certain evidence. "The evidence is not that elastic," Mr. Selkirk said.

"The circumstantial evidence before the court is open to more than one conclusion," Mr. Selkirk said, reminding the court that the OPP had originally declared Mr. Dell's death a suicide.

Judge Chadwick, who is hearing the case without a jury, is to give his decision Feb. 2.

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.