Cynthia didn’t act like a grieving widow, but did that make her a killer?
The operator tried his best to calm Cynthia Sommer down. She told him that she’d woken in the night to hear her husband, Todd, mumbling. He’d got up to go to the bathroom and collapsed.
The week before that, Todd had been having stomach pains and a high temperature. But he’d seemed better. The operator reassured Cynthia that paramedics were on their way.
Cynthia was a 23-year-old divorced mother-of-three when she met Marine Sgt Todd Sommer online. They married three years later, in July 1999, and had a son. Life was good.
Now, Todd was rushed to hospital. Cynthia followed in a military police car. On the way she asked to stop for cigarettes.
Tragically, Todd was pronounced dead on arrival. He was just 23. The cause of death was given as cardiac arrhythmia – an irregular heartbeat. But he had no history of heart problems. In the postmortem, no trace of heart disease was found. Samples of his body tissue were sent for testing.
After the funeral, fuelled by alcohol, Cynthia went to a strip club. Very strange for a newly widowed woman. Friends put it down to grief. But in the weeks that followed her behaviour got even more odd.
She received around £160,000 life insurance, as well as around £1,300 a month military pension. She put almost half into a trust fund for her and the children.
But it was what she spent the rest on that raised eyebrows. She used over $5,000 to get breast implants.
Then went on holiday to Mexico, showing off her assets in a wet T-shirt competition. She threw parties, and slept with several of Todd’s fellow Marines. Within a month, she was in a new relationship.
Meanwhile, more than a year after Todd’s death, his tissue samples were finally tested. Todd had more than 1,000 times the normal levels of arsenic in his liver and 230 times the normal level in his kidneys.
Police discovered Cynthia had consulted a plastic surgeon 10 days before Todd died. Had she killed him to pay for her boob job?
In November 2005, Cynthia Sommer was charged with first-degree murder.
She pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors argued she saw his life insurance policy as a way to ‘set herself free’. She was heavily in debt.
Her defence argued that Cynthia’s behaviour was her way of dealing with grief. But jurors found Cynthia guilty and she was sentenced to life in prison.
A judge decided to look at the trial again.
Had Cynthia been unfairly judged because of her wild behaviour? Or was she a calculating killer?