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At the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Dr. George Blumenschein was known to colleagues, patients, and students as an esteemed oncologist at the top of his profession. A specialist in head, neck, and lung cancers, he was a dedicated physician who saved lives.
But on January 27, 2013, Blumenschein, 48, came to the Emergency Department of his own hospital. He was sick and disoriented, as seen in a video recorded as he waited to be treated and obtained by “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered,” airing Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
Doctors suspected that he had had a stroke, but his MRI came back clear and ruled that diagnosis out. A medical mystery swirled and Blumenschein’s condition deteriorated. Hours after arriving at the hospital, he was in the ICU. He was unconscious and his organs were failing.
A battery of tests were run. One showed crystals in his body, indicating the presence of ethylene glycol, a sweet-tasting chemical found in antifreeze. It's toxic to the heart and kidneys and potentially deadly if enough of it is consumed.
Authorities had to investigate how a respected doctor could have ingested a known poison. Could the doctor have tried to kill himself with the poison? Blumenschein insisted he hadn't when questioned. So had someone slipped Blumenschein the clear and odorless substance?
Prosecutors Nathan Hennigan and Justin Keiter focused on Evette Toney, Blumenschein’s live-in girlfriend of a decade whom he was planning to have a baby with. She denied having anything to do with the poisoning. Officials looked to see if Toney stood to gain financially from Blumenschein’s death, and learned that his brother, not Toney, was the beneficiary of his life insurance policies.
Two weeks after Blumenschein had entered the hospital, they had no answers and Blumenschein was still suffering. Authorities dug deeper into his professional life, where they discovered he had more than a working relationship with Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, a rising star breast cancer specialist. Gonzalez-Angulo had actually followed Blumenschein to the hospital when he went to the Emergency Department and was with him and Toney as he waited to be seen by physicians.
Gonzalez-Angulo denied that she was having an affair with Blumenschein. When he had recovered enough to speak with investigators, Blumenschein also denied having a sexual relationship with Gonzalez-Angulo.
After a number of weeks, however, Blumenschein left the hospital and resumed his job. He then finally admitted to investigators that he and Gonzalez-Angulo were romantically involved. It was a game-changing confession. With that admission, the case formed the shape of a love triangle.
Theories and possible scenarios were considered. Could Toney have discovered her boyfriend was cheating and sought revenge? That idea was abandoned when detectives discovered that Toney didn’t find out about the cheating until after the poisoning.
Could Gonzalez-Angulo have felt spurned and gone to extremes over Blumenschein having a baby with Toney? Investigators learned that Gonzalez-Angulo crossed boundaries and bought a car and a watch to match ones Blumenschein had. She gave expensive gifts that struck Blumenschein as inappropriate.
After ending their affair without giving a reason, Blumenschein secretly recorded his phone calls with Gonzalez-Angulo, who can heard referring to Toney as being victorious over her: “She won, you know. Go have a kid, have a good life.”
Investigators discerned vengeance in that message. They also learned that Gonzalez-Angulo had access to ethylene glycol and that she and Blumenschein had been together throughout the day he got sick.
On May 29, 2013, Gonzalez-Angulo was arrested for aggravated assault. Her trial began in the fall of 2014. Patients who had faith in the doctor said she was a life saver and rallied in support of her. Prosecutors fretted about the jury accepting that a beloved healer hatched a murder scheme, so they called fellow doctors to the stand.
These coworkers testified that Gonzalez-Angulo loved Blumenschein. One told the court that Blumenschein explained to her that he had been poisoned even before that fact came out. Prosecutors also presented evidence that Gonzalez-Angulo staged an attack and tried to pin it on Toney.
In court, Hennigan called Gonzalez-Angulo “devious, diabolical, and dangerously deadly.” The portrait was of a woman with a “fatal attraction.” Like Glenn Close in the thriller film, Gonzalez-Angulo was, as Keiter told producers, "a bunny boiler.”
Blumenschein testified to his affair and told the court that he’d had coffee with Gonzalez-Angulo on the morning he fell ill that tasted “sickeningly sweet.” A poison expert testified that the timeline for his ingesting the poison in the coffee and getting very ill was consistent.
Defense attorney Derek Hollingsworth and his team countered the prosecution’s case. They said that Gonzalez-Angulo gave expensive gifts because she was generous, not obsessed. They argued that Toney wasn’t fully considered as a suspect. They punched holes in the poison expert’s testimony.
And they hammered home the fact that there was no direct evidence. “Nada,” Hollingsworth said in court.
The trial lasted eight days, and the jury deliberated for eight hours. The final verdict? Gonzalez-Angulo, 43, was convicted of aggravated assault. Gonzalez-Angulo was sentenced to 10 years and surrendered her license to practice medicine.
Blumenschein subsequently resumed his duties at the hospital.
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