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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"Black Widow" Della Sutorius Dies In Ohio
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
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
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
''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
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
Bassett said, "When I heard that Dr. Sutorius
was dead, I thought, 'I'm so . . . lucky to be alive, it's not
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
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
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
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
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."