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Crime News Dateline

Who Poisoned An Ohio Father With Antifreeze? The Answer Was Close To Home

Matthew Podolak was just 31 years old when he was rushed to the hospital in agonizing pain he believed was from kidney stones.

By Jill Sederstrom

Ohio dad Matthew Podolak suffered an agonizing death from antifreeze poisoning — but bringing the 31-year-old’s killer to justice wouldn’t be easy.

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For years the case remained unsolved, even as his heartbroken family pressed for answers. It wasn’t until six years after Podolak died that authorities finally made an arrest in the case: his fiancé and mother of his two children, Holly McFeeture, according to “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.”

But even with the arrest, prosecutors knew the case against McFeeture wouldn’t be easy to prove in court. It was largely circumstantial and relied on the testimony of a man with eight prior felony convictions, who claimed McFeeture had confessed during a drunken tryst.

Would it be enough to convict the Ohio mother?

Matt’s mom, Patricia, told "Dateline" correspondent Keith Morrison that the romance between Matt and McFeeture had moved quickly.

“When Matthew fell in love, he fell 110 percent and he really loved Holly,” she said.

A police handout of Holly McFeeture

About nine months after the couple met, they welcomed their daughter, Samantha, and their son, Josh, followed soon after. Matt was also helping raise McFeeture’s daughter from a previous marriage.

Within just a few years, Matt, an amateur hockey player, had gone from being a bachelor to being a dad to three children, including a colicky new baby, and the stress took its toll.

As the hockey season wrapped up in 2006, friends and family said Matt had lost money gambling on the internet and complained of feeling depressed. His doctor prescribed him antidepressants but then Matt began having terrible back pain.

McFeeture’s sister, Chrissy DeLuca, said that McFeeture had been the one who finally convinced Matt to go to the doctor for the pain.

“She finally said, ‘You need to go, obviously something’s not right,’” DeLuca recalled.

The doctor diagnosed Matt with kidney stones and gave him pills to dissolve the stones but four days later Matt was rushed to the hospital in agonizing pain. He would never go home. He died in the hospital, much his stunned family’s surprise.

Three months later, the coroner determined that Matt had died of ethylene glycol poisoning or antifreeze poisoning. However, the coroner could not determine the manner of death.

Without the formal designation as a homicide, the case stalled out for years until Detective Sgt. Mike Quinn was assigned to the case about three years after Matt’s death.

According to DeLuca, McFeeture believed that someone from her husband’s job may have been poisoning him. Matt had worked at his uncle’s industrial plant.

“There was some people at his job, they had not liked him,” DeLuca said. “It was his uncle’s company and um, people I think were a little jealous. He was supposed to get a promotion and I think there were some people who didn’t think he deserved it.”

But Matt’s family believed the culprit may have been someone much closer to home. Although McFeeture’s sister insisted she had been crying in the car before the funeral, Matt’s family was struck by her seeming lack of emotion during the service.

Matt’s brother Mark also knew there had been problems between the couple and said Matt felt McFeeture was controlling and demanding.

“There was some incidents that happened, sometimes they had to um, have the police show up,” Mark said.

Matt had been too afraid to leave the relationship because he was afraid to lose time with his children, Mark said.

Just a day after his death, McFeeture had also gone to the ATM and used Matt’s bank card. According to Quinn, she also wrote checks in his name and “cleaned out” his bank account.

McFeeture was arrested and charged with two counts of forgery after his mom reported the activity to police. She later agreed to make restitution and was placed on probation for a year. Her family insisted she had just been trying to get money to provide for the couple’s children in Matt’s absence.

McFeeture had also been listed as the beneficiary on Matt’s work life insurance policy, but the policy had been small and McFeeture only collected $10,000.

Prosecutor Brian McDonough told Morrison that McFeeture had been a suspect “from day one” but authorities were missing “critical links in the case” to formally charge her.

As the years went on, McFeeture continued to live her life. But six years after Matt’s death, authorities decided they had enough to build a circumstantial case against her and arrested her. She went on trial the following year.

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Prosecutors laid out their theory of the case. They believed that McFeeture had been slowly poisoning her fiancé by putting antifreeze in his favorite raspberry ice tea drink and called his coworkers to the stand, who described McFeeture often bringing the drink to him at work.

“You can’t smell it and you can’t see it in the tea,” McDonough said. “He would have no way to know that it was coming.”

While there was a limited financial motive, prosecutors believed that McFeeture had wanted out of the relationship and killed Matt to get him out of the way.

They also pointed to testimony from McFeeture’s one-time friend Rebecca Vega who described seeing antifreeze out in the kitchen around the time of Matt’s death. She also recalled one conversation where Vega had been complaining about her own husband and McFeeture allegedly commented that she could “get rid” of him.

However, the key witness in the prosecution’s case was Jamison Kennedy — a former boyfriend of McFeeture’s and a convicted felon. The couple had dated about a year after Matt’s death.

Kennedy claimed that one night after consuming some wine and having sex, McFeeture admitted that she had put something in her husband’s drink.

“After the sex is when things got really emotional. She just started crying,” Kennedy said on the stand, according to “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.” “She made some remarks that she just wanted it to all go away. She wanted to move out of Cleveland, she was regretful for what had taken place.”

McFeeture’s defense attorneys, however, were quick to point out Kennedy’s lengthy criminal record and contended he had told police about the alleged conversation only after he had been arrested himself for beating up some police officers.

They also played a recorded call between the pair that prosecutors had hoped would ensnare McFeeture — but instead she had adamantly denied ever telling Kennedy she had harmed her husband.

“You’re putting words in my mouth right now. ‘Cause I never said any such words to you about ever putting anything in his drink,” McFeeture said in the call. “I would never have done that.”

They contended that it was possible that Matt had killed himself as a result of his depression, gambling debts, and growing unhappiness in the relationship.

It took a jury three days to decide to convict McFeeture, who was sentenced in 2013 to life behind bars with the possibility of parole after 34 years.

“It was emotional,” Mark said of finally getting his younger brother the justice he deserved.