In September 1988, 41-year-old William LeFever was found suffering from an acute drug overdose in his home in Newark, Ohio. He was taken to Licking Memorial Hospital in Newark where he died the following day.
William was in the middle of a messy divorce with his 37-year-old wife, Virginia LeFever, and she told police that he had committed suicide by overdosing on antidepressants. She said had found an empty bottle of his antidepressants in their home shortly before he was taken to the hospital.
The coroner determined that William died from an overdose of the antidepressants, but that he would have died much sooner if he had ingested an entire bottle as Virginia claimed.
Virginia went to trial in Licking County Court of Common Pleas and her case was heard by a judge without a jury. The prosecution’s expert toxicologist, Franklin County toxicologist James Ferguson, provided critical evidence. Ferguson testified that only an injection of the medication would explain the course of William’s overdose, and he believed the evidence showed that someone had poisoned him.
The prosecution argued that Virginia, a registered nurse, gave that injection to her husband, and that when he did not die soon enough, she shut him in a closed room with a pesticide fumigant.
In February, 1990, the trial judge convicted Virginia of aggravated murder in February 1990, and she was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2010, Virginia’s attorney discovered that Ferguson, the toxicologist, had lied about his credentials at Virginia’s criminal trial and in other, unrelated court proceedings.
In November 2010, the trial court judge vacated Virginia’s conviction and she was released.
The prosecution dismissed the charges against her in April 2011. Prosecutor Kenneth Oswalt said in a statement that there was not enough evidence left "untainted" by Ferguson to go forward with a retrial.
LeFever later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages, but the lawsuit was dismissed.
- Stephanie Denzel