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Crime News Family Crimes

“Diabolical” California Fertility Doctor Who Said Wife Fell Down Stairs Found Guilty in Her 2016 Murder

Prosecutors suggested Dr. Eric Scott Sills may have fatally strangled his wife and business partner, Susann Sills, over a partially nude photo she reportedly posted online before her death.

By Dorian Geiger
A personal photo of Susann Sills

A California doctor who fatally strangled his wife and staged her death as an accident was found guilty of her murder this week.

Eric Scott Sills, 58, was convicted on a single count of second-degree murder in the death of his 45-year-old wife, Susann Sills, on Tuesday in an Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

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What happened to Susann Sills?

In November 2016, Sills dialed 911 and reported he’d found his wife unresponsive at the foot of the home’s stairs. Pathologists determined, however, that Susann had been fatally strangled. Investigators also found signs of a bloody struggle inside the couple’s $1 million San Clemente home. Two years later, Sills was charged in his spouse’s death. 

At trial, prosecutors argued Sills was a “calculated” killer who murdered his wife after a heated argument and later staged her death as an accident while the couple’s young twins — a boy and a girl — were asleep inside the family’s home.

“This man killed his wife and hid it, and he hid it pretty well, because it took a while to bring him to justice,” Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker told jurors, the Los Angeles Times reported. “People do not know what is going on in the privacy of relationships.”

Eric Scott Sills sits in court during opening statements

What was the evidence against E. Scott Sills in his wife's murder?

Specifically, prosecutors honed in on the suspicious placement of Susann's body, which had been found at the bottom of the staircase with her right foot resting on the lower stair. They said Sills was instructed by emergency dispatchers to attempt CPR on his wife on a flat surface, however, when authorities and paramedics arrived at the couple’s home, Susann’s foot was still on the staircase. Walker argued that Sills didn’t move his spouse because he wanted to present “that connection to the stairway” at all costs.

Prosecutors also said blood stains belonging to Sills found on the wall and drapes in their daughter’s bedroom further implicated him in his wife’s killing. 

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"Think of how diabolical you have to be — not only to kill your wife but to make it look like she had fallen down the stairs," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer stated. "It took calculated planning to commit this crime and worse of all he ruthlessly and selfishly murdered the mother of their children who now are left without their parents."

As the trial unfolded, jurors heard a recording of Sills’ 911 call, in which the California physician suggested to dispatchers that his wife had fallen in the middle of the night.  

“We’ve got a patient here who’s fallen off the stairs and I don’t have a pulse,” Sills told an emergency dispatcher. “I think she tripped because it was dark.”

Scott and Susann Sills' strained relationship

Text messages exchanged between the couple before Sills’ death revealed the toxic nature of the couple’s strained relationship. 

“I will never be free, ever,” Susann wrote in a text, the Los Angeles Times reported. “You are killing me, don’t you see? ... I just want out.”

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Prosecutors also pointed to a topless photo that Susann had posted of herself on social media after losing a bet; the picture, they said, had become a sore spot in the California couple’s marriage.

“Is that the reason he killed her? I don’t know,” Walker said, suggesting that Sills was possibly “done with her embarrassing him.”

Meanwhile, Sills’ legal team argued that Susann had become disoriented, tripped, and fell after she’d become malnourished due to not eating for several preceding days. Sills’ attorney, Jack Earley, noted that Susann had Valium and the opioid painkiller tramadol in her system on the night of her death. 

“She’s had a migraine for two days, three days,” Earley told the court. “We don’t know how she fell.”

Sills’ attorneys also claimed that the doctor’s blood that had been found splattered on drapes didn’t occur during a violent struggle with his wife, but rather was caused by an exposed nail on a bedroom nightstand. 

Sills didn’t take the stand at his own trial. 

Susann was born in Philadelphia, according to her obituary. She obtained an MBA in international studies from the University of Miami. She and Sills co-founded the Center of Advanced Genetics fertility clinic in Carlsbad in 2015, according to a CBS News report.

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