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Teresa Kotomski was convicted of murdering her husband, Raymond Kotomski, after he died of ethylene glycol poisoning, but now she’s offering a new theory from behind bars.
“I felt that people need to know that I’m innocent,” Teresa Kotomski told "Snapped: Behind Bars," airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “I did not murder my husband.”
From the Dayton Correctional Institute, Teresa tells the story behind her conviction, which started on the morning of Aug. 13, 2009 in Pierpont, Ohio. That morning, Teresa’s mother went to the house and found Raymond in distress. She contacted Teresa, who proceeded to call 911 and meet the ambulance at the home. Raymond was sick and unresponsive, but still alive.
Teresa rode in the ambulance with her husband, explaining to responders that he’d been sick for several days. According to her, Raymond said he drank “something sweet.”
“I didn’t know what was going on," Teresa told producers. “It was very hectic, very emotional … I prayed and prayed that he would wake up and let us know what happened.”
When Raymond arrived at the hospital, his kidneys were already shutting down.
But while the story behind Teresa’s conviction only started in 2009, the story of their union started years earlier, back in 2004. Teresa had remained unmarried for 21 years following her first divorce, and Raymond, who was 16 years her senior, was also divorced. After meeting on a dating website, the couple married.
“They were both real happy,” said Teresa’s friend, Mary Kelly. “She enjoyed having someone who actually shared the burdens of life with her, and she was happy and full of smiles.”
The pair settled nicely in their Pierpont home, but a couple of years later, tragedy struck. In 2006, Teresa’s 21-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident.
“It’s hard to explain when you lose a child,” Teresa said. “She was my only daughter.”
Teresa then gained custody of her daughter’s two children, both of whom were still in diapers. Raymond loved having the new grandkids living with them. But the marriage was still fresh, and soon, tension began to simmer.
“Being that he was older than I was, he was very set in his ways,” explained Teresa. “So you get conflicts there.”
The couple separated, and Teresa took her grandchildren and moved into a new apartment. That’s where she was when her mother found Raymond unresponsive at their home two weeks later.
“He drank a lot,” said Teresa. “And I told him, ‘Ray, if you don’t stop the drinking, I’m leaving. I can’t live with an alcoholic anymore. I can’t put the kids and I in that situation.’ And that’s when I moved out.”
Teresa claimed when she couldn’t get in touch with Raymond on the night of Aug. 12, 2009, she sent her mother to check in on him. That’s when she found Raymond.
After he was taken by ambulance to the first hospital, Raymond was air-flighted to another. There, doctors found he had ethylene glycol in his blood, the ingredient commonly used to manufacture antifreeze.
“When they told me that he had antifreeze in his system, I was overwhelmed,” Teresa claimed. “I just broke down. I don’t know nothing about antifreeze; all I know is that antifreeze goes in your car … we all wanted to know what happened.”
It soon became apparent that Raymond’s condition was steadily getting worse, and he wouldn’t be coming home. Doctors explained to Teresa that she had the option to take her husband off of life support and that he was already brain dead.
“I went ahead and told the doctor to go ahead and do it,” said Teresa. “And I sat there while they did it.”
A later autopsy confirmed that Raymond died of antifreeze poisoning. But the question was, did someone murder him?
Accidental ingestion seemed unlikely, so authorities began determining whether it was a suicide or murder. Investigators initially had difficulty envisioning Teresa as a suspect, especially since she gave doctors the crucial clue he was suffering from poisoning by telling medics he drank something sweet.
She let investigators search her and Raymond’s home. There, authorities found an open container of antifreeze in the garage. What struck investigators was that the open container had no fingerprints on it. If Raymond wanted to take his own life, they expected his fingerprints to be on the jug.
During initial interviews with law enforcement, Teresa pushed forward the notion of suicide. According to her, after she’d taken the kids and moved into the new apartment, Raymond invited her over. She visited Raymond, but while there, she believed he was drunk. When she asked him if he needed anything, he told her he already had “something sweet.”
She also claimed Raymond called her brother and stated that he had no reason to live without Teresa and the grandkids in his life.
“Maybe, if he did anything, he did it to get me to come back home,” Teresa claimed.
Raymond’s family and friends didn’t believe that he could have been suicidal, citing upcoming hunting trips and land he planned to purchase. They also said they were adamant about not taking Raymond off life support in the first place. Relatives claimed that while they briefly left Raymond’s bedside at the hospital, Teresa made the ultimate decision to pull the plug without their blessing.
“That really threw red flags up to me,” said Raymond’s ex-wife, Mary Lou Kotomski. “Her wanting to pull the plug right away and have him cremated right away. She didn’t want to have a funeral or anything. It was like … toss him in a bag and get rid of him. And at that point, I was like, something is totally wrong here.”
But there was nothing directly tying Teresa to a crime. A couple of years went by, and there were no new leads. Shortly after Raymond’s death, Teresa made out with $200,000 left from Raymond’s estate. She bought a home for her and her grandchildren, and soon, she even had a new live-in boyfriend.
In 2012, authorities picked the investigation back up. They asked for a special prosecutor from the attorney general’s office to evaluate the case and see if they could take it to trial. They re-interviewed Teresa, explaining that they were treating Raymond’s death as a homicide.
Teresa lawyered up and did not speak to investigators again.
“When you look at the case, it is a circumstantial case,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “But in the end, quite frankly, I have a great deal of confidence in our investigators.”
DeWine gave the go-ahead when investigators said they had enough to push the case forward. In March 2014, nearly five years after Raymond’s death, authorities arrested Teresa Kotomski.
“I was shocked,” said Teresa. “I was shocked that I was being arrested for something I didn’t do. They had no evidence that I did anything. In my mind I knew that I was innocent.”
Prosecutors presented the idea that Teresa opted to murder Raymond as an alternative to dragging out a long divorce, for which she may not have seen monetary gain. The defense lawyer convinced Teresa to do a bench trial, eliminating twelve jurors and allowing only the judge to hear all the evidence.
Investigators put Teresa at Raymond’s house on Aug. 11 from around 10 a.m. until about 7:00 p.m. Later that evening, he left a voicemail for a friend, where he was allegedly slurring. Prosecutors believed by then he was already in the early stages of antifreeze poisoning.
Contrary to Teresa’s claims that Raymond was a heavy drinker, there was no alcohol found in his system, neither at the hospital nor in later postmortem toxicology reports.
The judge found Teresa not guilty of contaminating a substance for human consumption. Despite this, however, he found her guilty of murder. Prosecutors say the contradiction had to do with the verbiage of the law pertaining to the contamination charge, which could not be determined without knowing what exactly Teresa allegedly contaminated.
Teresa was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 15 years.
“I believe Raymond died of diabetes, untreated diabetic,” said Teresa. “Raymond was never tested for [diabetes]. But I believe he went into a sugar coma. That’s what I believe. Yes. Definitely. I believe that 100 percent.”
Teresa remains at the Dayton Correctional Institute. She is eligible for parole in 2030 when she is 69 years old.
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