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Della Dante SUTORIUS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - To inherit
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 19, 1996
Date of arrest: 7 days after
Date of birth: August 8, 1950
Victim profile: Dr. Darryl Sutorius, 55 (her 5th husband)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Hamilton County, Ohio, USA
Status: Sentenced to 23 years to life in prison on June 23, 1996. Died in prison on November 20, 2010

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Dante Britteon Sutorius: Dante Sutorious had lived an unusual life. She'd been married and divorced four times. She met her fifth husband, Darryl, through a dating service. He was a recently divorced doctor, and petite, vivacious Dante was just what he needed. Darryl lavished her with gifts and soon proposed marriage.

The couple enjoyed the finer things and spent money with abandon. But soon, money was running thin, and tensions were growing. Dante had begun fighting with Darryl's oldest daughter. The couple began seeing a marriage counselor.

Then, in February of 1996, Dr. Sutorius didn't show up for work. When police stopped by the house, they found the doctor shot dead in a downstairs den. Dante said she didn't even know he was home and suspected he had shot himself.

But the medical examiner saw a different scene. And when news of the doctor's death hit the front page, faces from Dante's past came forward to incriminate her. Dante's ex-husbands alleged that she was violent and had often threatened them.

Dante was charged with murder. Despite her claims of innocence, a jury convicted her and sentenced her to 24 years in prison.


Della Faye Hall Hoeffer Beyer Bassett Britteon Sutorius (born Della Faye Hall, August 8, 1950 - November 20, 2010) was an American woman who was convicted of murdering her husband in 1996.


Dr. Darryl Sutorius was found dead in the basement of the house he shared with his wife on February 19, 1996. Though it was clear that a gunshot to the head had been the cause of death, authorities were initially unsure whether his death was homicide or suicide.

Sutorius's wife, Della, was arrested the same day when investigating police found a supply of cocaine. Though released on bail the next day, Mrs. Sutorius was re-arrested on February 27 when it was determined that she had purchased the weapon that had killed her husband and gunshot residue tests and autopsy results indicated that she had been the one who fired the weapon on the day of Sutorius's death. This time the charge was aggravated murder with prior calculation.

Investigation and trial

Investigation into the background of Della Sutorius showed that the death of Sutorius, her fifth husband, was not the first time Della Sutorius had been associated with violence. Sutorius's third husband alleged that she had repeatedly threatened to kill him during their marriage; after the couple divorced, she was charged with threatening another man, this time a boyfriend, with a gun. One husband had found knives hidden around the house he shared with her and had been surprised when she told him she "could kill you", while her fourth husband told investigators that she was mentally abusive and he feared her to the point of hiding the bullets to his gun to prevent her from being able to use them.

Hamilton County, Ohio prosecutor Joe Deters theorized that Della Sutorius had "a serious problem with rejection" after colleagues of her husband reported that shortly before his death, Darryl Sutorius had been considering filing for divorce. According to her sister Donna Hall, Sutorius's approach to men had long been colored by monetary gain: "She said you find a wealthy man and, when they die, you'd get their money".

Sutorius declined to take the stand in her own defense at her trial. Though her lawyers argued that police had failed to prove that Darryl Sutorius's death was anything but suicide and that his wife's statements to police had not been preceded by a Miranda warning, she was convicted on June 7, 1996, with the jury deliberating for fewer than five hours before finding her guilty of aggravated murder. Later the same month, she was sentenced to more than twenty years in prison: twenty years for the murder, three because a gun was used in the crime, and eighteen months on drug charges.

After conviction

Della Sutorius appealed her conviction in the spring of 1997, claiming that the trial jury having been allowed to hear hearsay evidence of statements her dead husband had made and that prosecutors had made improper comments to the jury. The appeal was declined in June of the same year and Sutorius returned to serving her sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

In order to defray the costs of prosecuting Sutorius, the Hamilton County Sheriff's department seized and auctioned off Sutorius's 11-piece jewelry collection. Despite the coverage the press devoted to the auction, bidders failed to meet the minimum necessary total for the pieces to sell separately and the lot was sold for a $5,100 lump sum.


According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Della Sutorius died of natural causes at the Ohio Reformatory for Women on November 20, 2010, where Sutorius had been serving her life sentence since her conviction. She was 60 years old. Sutorius would have been eligible for parole in 2013.

In media

Della Sutorius's dramatic history with her husbands and the public perception of her as a being "black widow" attracted high levels of coverage from the press; her lawyer, ex-husbands, and ex-boyfriends were all reportedly approached by talk show hosts and news broadcasts such as Geraldo Rivera and Hard Copy. A spokeswoman for the Sally Jessy Raphael talk show Sally, which also pursued the story, explained that the case was "highly dramatic" and would be of appeal to daytime television watchers. Despite jury selection being slowed down by already-widespread news coverage of the case, CourtTV was permitted to televise coverage of the May 1996 trial. A 2010 episode of Dateline NBC covered the case in detail, interviewing Sutorius's family and friends as well as people who had been involved in her legal cases.

Crime reporter Aphrodite Jones covered Sutorius's case in her 2011 book Della's Web; Her case was featured in 2005 on the Oxygen Network series Snapped, and the Investigation Discovery series Deadly Women and Fatal Vows.


"Black Widow" Della Sutorius Dies In Ohio Prison

By Hansen Sinclair - AHN News Reporter

December 31, 2010

Cincinnati, OH, United States (AHN) – The woman once branded the “The Black Widow” for murdering her husband has died in prison, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The department announced the death of Della Sutorius Wednesday. She died Nov. 20 of natural causes at the Marysville Women’s Prison at the age of 60.

Sutorius was convicted of aggravated murder in the death of her husband, Darryl Sutorius, 55, a heart surgeon. He was found dead in the couple’s basement with a gunshot wound to the head in February 1996, reports stated. A gun bought by his wife two days earlier was found near the body.

At her trial, prosecutors argued Sutorius killed her husband because he planned to divorce her. She had been divorced four times already, according to reports. However, defense attorneys contended her husband committed suicide.

A jury found her guilty, and she was sentenced to life in prison.

She would have been eligible for her first parole hearing in 2013.


Appeals court: 'Black widow' must stay in Marysville

By Dan Horn - The Cincinnati Post

June 26, 1997

One year after Della Dante Sutorius went to prison for murdering her surgeon husband, the so-called ''black widow'' has lost her bid for freedom.

The Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Mrs. Sutorius received a fair trial in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court and should remain behind bars for the murder of Dr. Darryl Sutorius.

In their 23-page decision, the appeals court judges decided that any errors during the trial were ''harmless in light of the substantial evidence of guilt.''

A jury convicted Mrs. Sutorius in June 1996 after concluding she shot Dr. Sutorius once in the head as he slept on a basement couch.

The verdict ended a three-week trial that drew national media attention to Mrs. Sutorius and her long history of turbulent, sometimes violent, relationships.

During the trial before Judge Richard Niehaus, prosecutors contended Mrs. Sutorius killed her husband and then tried to make it look like suicide so she could collect a nearly $1 million pension plan.

Defense attorneys argued that the doctor killed himself after enduring a long bout of depression over the demise of his marriage.

Mrs. Sutorius' attorneys returned to court earlier this year to argue that errors by the judge and prosecutors creat ed bias among jurors and made it impossible for her to get a fair trial.

The appeals judges agreed that, on at least one occasion, the judge failed to exclude improper testimony made by a witness who claimed to have heard Dr. Sutorius discuss how his wife threatened to kill him.

But the judges said there was a great deal of additional, proper testimony that could help jurors reach a fair verdict.

''We cannot say that the erroneous admission of hearsay testimony . . . prejudiced Sutorius to the extent that she was denied a fair trial,'' the court ruled.

In earlier arguments before the appeals court, defense attorney Elizabeth Agar said the emotional impact of such statements had a significant impact in a case that relied heavily on circumstantial evidence. The defense also had contended prosecutors improperly commented to jurors about Mrs. Sutorius' failure to testify at the trial. But the appeals court found no evidence of misconduct by prosecutors. Mrs. Sutorius, 46, is serving a sentence of 20 years to life at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.


'Black Widow' sentenced for killing No. 5

June 26, 1996

A woman convicted of killing her fifth husband was sentenced to life in prison by a judge who compared her with a poisonous fish that "consumes all who come in contact with it."

Della Dante Sutorius, who had allegedly threatened to kill several of her previous husbands, was sentenced Monday for the Feb. 18 shooting death of Dr. Darryl J. Sutorius. Prosecutors described her as a black widow spider who shot her husband for his $900,000 in assets.

But Judge Richard Niehaus said she reminded him of a lionfish he saw while scuba diving, beautiful but with fins that are as sharp as needles and poisonous.

"It consumes all who come in contact with it. That creature is you," he told Della Sutorius.

She got the maximum sentence for aggravated murder: life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. She also got three years for using a gun during a crime and 11/2 years for drug possession. A tin of cocaine had been found in her bedroom.

Prosecutors painted Della Sutorius as an insecure, manipulative, high school dropout who married for money. She met the 55-year-old heart surgeon through a dating service and had been married to him for 11 months when she shot him in the head as he sat on a couch in their home.

Dr. Sutorius had been planning to divorce his wife. The defense said he had been depressed and suggested his death was a suicide. Prosecutors said the angle of the wound and the distance the gun was held from the head proved otherwise.

Several of Della Sutorius' former husbands said she had threatened to kill them. In 1990, shortly after she divorced husband No. 3, she was convicted of threatening a boyfriend with a gun.

Della Sutorius declined to comment and said nothing in court. Her lawyer said she will appeal.


Woman Held in Death of Her 5th Husband

Crime: Heart surgeon was shot to death. Some of her ex-spouses say they feel they dodged the bullet

By Terry Kinney - Los Angeles Times

March 17, 1996

CINCINNATI — Della Faye Hall Hoeffer Beyer Bassett Britteon Sutorius was the marrying kind. Five times she wed, each time selecting a man younger or wealthier than the last.

Four of the marriages ended in divorce, some of her ex-husbands claiming that they escaped with their lives.

The fifth ended in a gunshot.

Della Sutorius, 45, is charged with aggravated murder in the slaying of heart surgeon Dr. Darryl Sutorius, 55, found shot in the head Feb. 19 in the basement of the couple's home in well-to-do Symmes Township. She could get life in prison.

A colleague said Della Sutorius' husband had been planning to file for divorce.

"I think this woman has a serious problem with rejection," Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said.

Her third husband, graphic artist Grant Bassett, said that during their nine-month marriage, she would get herself all wound up watching TV talk shows and threaten to kill him.

Bassett said, "When I heard that Dr. Sutorius was dead, I thought, 'I'm so . . . lucky to be alive, it's not funny.' "

In 1990, shortly after she divorced Bassett, she was convicted of threatening a boyfriend with a gun. Stockbroker Lawrence Wulker told police she told him that she was pregnant and "threatened my life if she miscarried."

Her fourth husband, computer consultant David Britteon, told the Cincinnati Post he survived their marriage only because he hid the bullets to the .44-caliber magnum that he kept in their home. Otherwise, he said, "it would be me on the couch with a bullet to my ear."

Sheriff's deputies found Sutorius' body after his co-workers, worried that he hadn't shown up for work, sent them to the couple's $284,000 brick home. When they arrived, Della Sutorius told police that her husband wasn't there.

But officers looked around anyway and found Sutorius dead in the basement, a .38-caliber revolver on the floor nearby. Investigators said Della Sutorius had bought the gun two days earlier.

A week after the shooting, Della Sutorius was arrested. Published reports quoted unidentified sources as saying that gunpowder had been found on her hands and her husband's.

Her attorney, R. Scott Croswell III, said Della Sutorius expects to be acquitted. "She is anxious to face these charges and have them resolved," he said. He did not respond to a request to interview his client.

Five days before Sutorius' death, he said he was contemplating divorce from the woman he had married less than a year earlier, said Dr. Jim Mills, a fellow surgeon.

"From what I could gain, he obviously was not happy with his situation," Mills told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The couple, who reportedly met through a dating service, married four months after Sutorius divorced his wife of 30 years.

Of Della Sutorius' marriages, this one seemed the most advantageous. Her new husband drove a Porsche and a Jaguar, and had a vacation condo in Mexico and a $380,000 annual income.

She was a 19-year-old high school dropout when she married her first husband, 18-year-old Joseph Hoeffer. They had one child and divorced after four years, the child staying with Hoeffer.

At 24, she married 23-year-old plumber James Beyer. She divorced him five years later. She married Bassett in 1990. Nine months later, they agreed to divorce. She was 41 when she married Britteon, then 29. That marriage ended after three years. She married Sutorius in 1995.

When a grand jury convened earlier this month to indict Della Sutorius, three former husbands and a boyfriend met for the first time. Bassett said all her husbands saw the same thing in her. "She was very striking . . . eye-catching," he said. "I thought I was getting into a pretty lady, very meek. Lo and behold, Tasmanian devil."



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