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Cemetery Secret Helped Convict ‘Black Widow’ Husband Poisoner Who Tried To Frame Her Daughter
When police started to close in on Stacey Castor, she poisoned her own daughter and forged a suicide note.
On August 22, 2005, a seemingly distraught Stacey Castor expressed her seemingly desperate fears to a 911 dispatcher about her spouse, David Castor.
“My husband just locked himself in the bedroom for the last day … I’m really scared, you know?” she said.
An officer who responded to the call gained entrance to the locked room in the family’s home in Syracuse, New York with a shove.
David, a 48-year-old businessman, was found naked and unresponsive in the couple’s vomit-covered bed. On a bedside table there was a glass filled with a green liquid, and on the floor a jug of antifreeze was found. There was no suicide note.
“It appears to be a simple suicide by antifreeze poisoning,” Sgt. Michael Norton of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office told “Exhumed,” airing Sundays at 7/6c and 8/7c on Oxygen.
If the fatal tableau suggested a simple explanation, it was also shocking. The couple had met in 2001 when David hired Stacey to work as a secretary at his heating and air conditioning company.
It was a second marriage for each of them. Stacey had two teenage daughters, Ashley and Bree, who, over time, grew close to their likable, outdoorsy step-dad. The family was happy but there were reports of discord over the way David spent money.
He was also said to have sunk into a depression after his father’s death a few months before he took his own life.
But after a medical examiner concluded that antifreeze poisoning was the cause of death and ruled it a suicide, detectives remained unconvinced for several reasons. There was no suicide note. And would David, a hunter who kept a gun under his bed, really have chosen poison as a way to end his life?
At David's funeral on August 25, detectives got a shocking wake-up call that stirred their concerns about the case. David's cemetery headstone is adjacent to the grave site of Stacey’s first husband, Michael Wallace, who died in January 2000.
The realization made detectives look at the grieving widow with fresh eyes. Was she the victim of terrible luck? Or was there something more sinister at work?
The discovery of a turkey baster at the Castor home with traces of antifreeze and David's DNA, along with Stacey’s lone fingerprints on the glass of antifreeze found next to David’s body, suggested the latter. The baster appeared to have been used to force the poisonous liquid into David.
At this point, detectives told “Exhumed,” the investigation became a homicide case. More evidence would be needed before charges could be brought against anyone, though.
Investigators focused on the late Michael Wallace, who was 38 years old when he died. At the time of his death, which was said to be from a heart attack, Stacey nixed an autopsy.
Detectives also learned that three months before he died, Wallace told his doctor that he felt drunk but hadn’t consumed alcohol.
“That’s a classic symptom of antifreeze poisoning,” District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick told producers.
Ethylene glycol toxicity -- the official term for antifreeze poisoning -- leaves telltale crystals in the body, explained medical examiner Dr. Katherine Maloney. Wallace’s body would need to be exhumed to see whether or not the incriminating crystals were present.
“The truth can stay buried in the ground for years,” said Fitzpatrick.
The exhumation was carried out in secret in September 2007. Stacey's comings and goings were covertly monitored to ensure she knew nothing about it.
After the casket containing Wallace’s body was unearthed it was brought by ambulance to the medical examiner, who found crystals in the body that were consistent with antifreeze poisoning.
An unsettling pattern emerged. Detectives theorized that both marriages had begun to curdle shortly before both Michael Wallace and David Castor died.
“It was just the easiest way to get rid of somebody,” said Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office Det. Dominick Spinelli, adding that Stacey “didn’t have to go through a messy divorce.”
“This is as cold-blooded as it gets,” Fitzpatrick told producers.
But investigators were hamstrung. Without solid proof, they couldn’t make an arrest.
Two years after David Castor’s death, investigators covertly tapped Stacey's phones and let people in her circle know about the exhumation. They also brought her back to the station to grill her about his death. During this interview, she said, “I poured him the antifree, I mean cranberry juice.”
When investigators pointed out to her that she said “antifree,” she claimed that they had confused her. When she saw a photograph of a recovered turkey baster in the detective’s file, she freaked out and terminated the interview.
She left. But “antifree” -- which is exactly how the word is written in a transcript of the interview -- stayed put in detectives’ minds.
About a week after the exhumation, the case took a shocking twist after Stacey made another urgent 911 phone call: “Um, my daughter I believe has taken some pills.”
Ashley Wallace had presumably tried to kill herself with a lethal mix of alcohol and pills. And this time there was a suicide note. In it, Ashley confessed to killing her father and her stepdad. In the typewritten confession the word “antifree” appeared four times.
As she recovered in the hospital, Ashley was asked by detectives about her suicide attempt and her note. The young woman had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.
“I did not kill my father,” she recalled saying at the time. “I did not kill my stepdad. I did not try to kill myself. You need to talk to my mom for answers.”
A search of the computer in Stacey’s home revealed that was where Ashley’s phony confessional had been typed. Ashley was away at school at the time the note had been written and printed.
Four years after David Castor’s death, Stacey Castor, who’d become known as a “black widow” in the press, was arrested for murder and for attempted murder of Ashley Wallace.
The jury deliberated for three days before coming back with a guilty verdict. Stacey was sentenced to 51 years to life without the possibility of parole.
Because her sentence meant that she’d be behind bars for the rest of her life, “Exhumed” notes, authorities didn’t pursue charges in the alleged murder of Michael Wallace.
Ashley Wallace, 33, told producers that she “was relieved” that her mother got what she deserved and “that she can’t hurt anybody” else.
In 2016, seven years into her sentence, 48-year-old Stacey Castor died of a heart attack.