California housewife Susan Polk studied literature, not
law, in college. But she has chosen to act as her own
attorney at her murder trial, "fighting for her life,"
she says, against the first-degree murder charge in her
husband's death. Polk admits she stabbed her husband
Felix in 2002, but says it was in self-defense during a
fight and that he actually died from a heart attack and
not his wounds. Two of her three sons say she is
"delusional" and guilty as charged.
The defendant says she first met her psychologist
husband Frank "Felix" Polk in 1972, when he was a
40-year-old Berkeley psychologist and she was a
14-year-old old schoolgirl suffering from panic attacks.
Susan Polk testified that after reviewing her notes and
memories in preparation for trial, she believes
relationship became sexual after Felix allegedly raped
her when she was 15.
Polk's 72-year-old mother, Helen Bolling, says she
confronted Felix about the relationship when she learned
her teenage daughter's new boyfriend was her therapist.
"I told him, I don't want to make trouble for you,
that's got to stop," Bolling said. She later discovered
the relationship did not end.
By 1982, Polk had left his wife, a classical pianist,
and their two children, and married his former patient
Susan Mae Bolling. She was 25 and he was 50. Susan's
mother says she attended the wedding, but
refused to pay
As Mrs. Felix Polk, Susan handled the family's financial
affairs and was a secretary for her husband's lucrative
psychology practice. While she may have appeared to be
happy, Polk claims, she was a victim of constant
emotional and physical abuse from her husband.
The Polks eventually raised three boys — Adam, Eli and
Gabriel. Adam and Gabriel would later become
for the prosecution in Polk's trial; only Eli would
testify on her behalf.
Susan claims Felix did not allow her to have any friends
of her own and that he threatened to kill her,
their three children, and even the family dogs if she
ever left him.
But Gabriel, now 19, says it was his mother who spoke
for years about killing his father. "She talked about
drugging him and drowning him in the pool, hitting him
over the head and drowning him in the pool,
him with a car or tampering with his car," Gabriel said
during four days of intense testimony.
Gabriel testified that his mother's behavior took a turn
about five years before his father's death, when she
began to experience repressed memories of being molested
by her own parents. Susan Polk's mother denies
claims. Gabriel says he does not believe it either, but
points to it as more evidence of her alleged
Polk says her controlling husband, Felix, put the idea
in her head.
Even the Polk children were caught up in molestation
tales. The Polks once accused Adam's day-care center
ritualistic satanic abuse, but no evidence was ever
found to support the claim. Polk says it was her
husband's idea, and she played jurors a taped lecture of
Dr. Polk describing the molestation he
believed Adam had
Gabriel also accused his mother of falsely believing
that Felix Polk was a secret agent with the Israeli
Mossad and that he was hiding millions of dollars from
her in Cayman Islands bank accounts.
"There'd be times
when Saturday morning, you'd be reading the newspaper
and trying to find
codes," Gabriel told his mother
during her murder trial.
Polk claims Felix tried to brainwash her boys against
her, constantly telling them, "Mom is crazy." She
says she caught Felix poisoning her dog Tuffy. By 2000,
the couple was talking about divorce.
On Oct. 14, 2002, Susan Polk was arrested for stabbing
Felix to death with a paring knife at the end of a
divorce battle, in which she appeared to be losing the
family home and custody of Gabriel. Gabriel
after he found his father's partially naked body on the
floor of the guest cottage at the
couple's $1.85 million