Kristin Rossum was convicted of poisoning her spouse Greg de Villers with fentanyl. Owing to the dramatic nature of de Villers’s death on Nov. 6, 2000–Rossum staged the scene as a suicide, complete with rose petals sprinkled over de Villers’s body, a supposed homage to his favorite movie, American Beauty–Rossum’s story has been a staple of tabloid and true crime TV ever since she was convicted. Since this is “true” crime, though, the story isn’t over. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Rossum a new hearing, agreeing that she was, in the words of the Court, “deprived of her Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel.”
The question once again comes down to fentanyl. Rossum told the Court that she had inneffective counsel because her lawyer didn’t seek to have de Villers’s autopsy samples tested to see if her husband had in fact ingested the heavy-duty painkiller or if the fentanyl could have come from post-mortem lab contamination. From the decision granting Rossum’s new day in court:
The fentanyl levels in de Villers’s autopsy samples were extraordinarily, even unnaturally, high. While these elevated concentration levels suggested that death was immediate, they were at odds with medical evidence which indicated that de Villers lingered in a state of unconsciousness for several hours before he died.
Rossum and her new counsel believe that there was plenty of potential for de Villers’s samples to be contaminated in the lab. After all, both Rossum and the man with whom she was having an affair when her husband died were employees of the San Diego County Office of the Medical Examiner.
It looks like TruTV and Investigation Discovery have at least another half-hour to go on the American Beauty Killer, after all.
Read the full court document if you have a moment. It lays out all the facts, including the known narrative of the case up to Rossum’s conviction. There are still plenty of elements in her narrative of events that don’t track; but legalities are legalities.