Former Ohio doctor gets life for wife's cyanide
By Emanuella Grinberg - CNN
March 9, 2010
A former Ohio doctor was sentenced Tuesday to life
in prison for poisoning his wife with cyanide five years ago.
A Cleveland jury convicted Yazeed Essa last week of
aggravated murder for poisoning Rosemarie Essa, his wife and the
mother of his two children, with a cyanide-laced calcium pill.
Essa, 41, will be eligible for parole in 20 years,
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Bill Mason said. His crime occurred before
Ohio sentencing laws were changed to give judges discretion in
determining when a convicted murderer is eligible for parole.
Dressed in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, Essa did
not betray an emotion as Judge Deena Calabrese lamented that she could
not hand down a stiffer sentence.
"I regret that you have the benefit of committing
this crime under the old law," Calabrese told Essa.
"You took an oath to preserve life and you
destroyed your family," she said. "I cannot imagine the evil that you
have done to these people, especially your children. It is my great
hope and the only that I can think of at this moment that they forget
you ... and that whatever legacy you had is wiped away."
The six-week trial included testimony from more
than 60 witnesses who told the story of a philandering doctor, his
many mistresses and an international manhunt that crossed three
continents and ended with his arrest in Cyprus in October 2006, 18
months after his wife's death.
"What do you say to a person that murders the
mother of his children, a murdering coward with no heart, no
compassion, no remorse?" Rosemarie Essa's mother, Virginia DiPuccio,
said at her son-in-law's sentencing hearing Tuesday.
"All she wanted was children and a husband that
loved her back and you took that away. She didn't deserve it,"
DiPuccio said as other relatives sat in the packed courtroom audience,
dabbing tears with tissues.
Essa fled the United States in March 2005 after
police questioned him about his wife's death. He was arrested in
Cyprus on October 7, 2006, for using fake travel documents. In January
2009, Essa was extradited to Cuyahoga County, according to the
Defense attorneys pointed to a lack of physical
evidence linking Essa to the tainted supplements and urged jurors not
to convict him for his playboy lifestyle.
The defense also attempted to cast suspicion on
Essa's mistresses. Two of them testified, one saying she never loved
Essa and another saying she believed him when he promised to be her
The 38-year-old mother of two and former nurse was
driving to the movies in the family Volvo on February 24, 2005, when
she felt ill, passed out and hit another vehicle before stopping
against a curb.
Before she crashed, she called a friend from her
car and told her that she was beginning to feel sick to her stomach
and wondered whether a supplement her husband had given her was making
Jurors heard from the friend, Eva Gardner, along
with two of Essa's mistresses and his brother, who said Essa admitted
to killing his wife.
DiPuccio said her daughter made the phone call so
he wouldn't get away with murder.
"It didn't go your way," she said, as a stone-faced
Essa listened. "She got you, Yaz, and the Essa curse ends here today.
We have Rosie in our memory. She's in our hearts and with us always."
Yazeed Essa sentenced to life in prison with no
chance of parole for 20 years
By Leila Atassi - The Plain Dealer
March 9, 2010
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Street vendors and barflies in
Beirut have heard the story of how and why former Gates Mills doctor
Yazeed Essa killed his wife with calcium capsules emptied and refilled
with hand-crushed cyanide.
The man who harbored him during his days on the run
said that Essa bragged constantly about his handiwork to whomever
But Tuesday, days after a Cuyahoga County jury
found Essa guilty of aggravated murder, Rosemarie Essa's brothers
demanded to hear the story, too -- from Essa himself. Rocco and
Dominic DiPuccio stood before their former brother-in-law, challenging
Essa to come clean and ask for forgiveness.
"Are you man enough?" Dominic DiPuccio said. "Are
you? Forget that appeal. Stop wasting your brother's money. This is
your last chance to save your soul. Are you a man or not?"
But on his attorneys advice, Essa remained silent,
avoiding eye contact and swiveling nervously in his chair.
Common Pleas Judge Deena Calabrese sentenced Essa,
41, to life in prison with parole eligibility after 20 years --
placing the capstone on a trial that ranks among the most highly
publicized in the court's history.
Essa's attorneys, Steven Bradley and Mark Marein,
said their client plans to file an appeal. They asked, however, that
he be declared indigent and assigned new legal counsel to work on his
case. Essa's brother, Firas, had bankrolled the defense because Yazeed
Essa's assets are frozen pending a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the
Assistant County Prosecutor Steven Dever asked the
judge to order Essa to reimburse taxpayers for $41,000 -- the cost of
extraditing Essa from Cyprus when he was captured in 2006 after 18
months on the run.
The judge granted the motion. But first she invited
Rosemarie Essa's friends and family members to speak about the woman
they call Rosie and the cavity left in their lives when she died.
Rosemarie Essa's parents, Rocco and Gee Gee
DiPuccio, told the judge how lucky they were to have four beautiful
children, who grew into well-rounded, compassionate adults.
But on Feb. 24, 2005, Rocco DiPuccio said, their
luck ran out when Yazeed Essa handed their 38-year-old daughter the
"I've seen a lot of court cases where they talk
about closure," DiPuccio said. "I never understood that word until
now, and I still don't understand it because there is no closure. The
only thing I'm hoping is that from now on, maybe there will be less
nights when my wife cries herself to sleep."
Gee Gee DiPuccio called Essa an evil, murderous
coward and wished him misery in his lifetime behind bars.
"You see, Yaz, our family has something you don't
have," she said. "Heart, love, compassion and strength in a higher
power that will get us through this."
Others invoked Essa's conscience and wondered aloud
how it could bear the weight of what he had done. They reminded him of
the two children he left behind, Armand, 9, and Lena, 7, who are now
being raised by Dominic and Julie DiPuccio. And they spoke of the
children's suffering and confusion in adjusting to life without either
of their biological parents.
Dominic DiPuccio read a statement he wrote from the
perspective of Essa's children, listing all the ways in which they
have grieved in their mother's absence from holidays and landmark
events in their lives. He vowed to raise the children as his own and
said he hopes their memories fade of the man they refer to as their
The memory of "Mommy Rosie," however, will survive,
"My children, our children, have had to face fear
and confusion that no child should ever have to face," DiPuccio said.
"I miss my sister terribly each and every day. She will never get to
hug her children or feel the sun on her face again. So I see no reason
why (Essa) should ever get to as long as he lives."
Judge Calabrese asked Essa if he wished to remain
silent. And the once suave playboy, now dressed in bright orange
prison scrubs, paused for several seconds before answering, "Yes."
Then the judge told Essa that he has such little
respect for women that she doubted her words would have much of an
impact on him at all. Calabrese said his lack of emotion or remorse is
unfathomable and that she regrets that the law would not allow her to
sentence him to life in prison without parole.
"I cannot imagine the evil you have done to these
people, especially your children," Calabrese said. "It is my great
hope that they forget you and that whatever legacy you have is wiped
away... I am so glad that you will be leaving my courtroom and that I
hopefully will never have to look upon you again."
GUILTY: Jury delivers verdict in Yazeed Essa
aggravated murder trial
By Leila Atassi - The Plain Dealer
Friday, March 05, 2010
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Like a curtain call at the
conclusion of an epic performance, jurors returned to a crowded
courtroom Friday to thunderous applause after pronouncing Yazeed Essa
guilty of the aggravated murder of his wife.
In a rare turn of events, all 12 jurors and four
alternates chose to address the media and the family and friends of
Rosemarie Essa, who died in 2005 when her husband slipped her a
calcium supplement laced with cyanide.
Yazeed Essa, stony-faced upon hearing his fate, had
been handcuffed and escorted from the courtroom before the jurors
crowded around a podium, stacked with the microphones of local and
national TV crews. They took turns explaining with candor, emotion and
some measure of levity what went on behind the closed jury room door
during their three-and-a half days of deliberation.
The jury foreman told reporters that the evidence
influenced each juror differently. And when asked what took them so
long to arrive at a consensus, the foreman said the panel took
seriously its charge to weigh all of the evidence before rendering its
decision and did not even take their first vote until Friday morning.
"Two hundred four pieces of evidence," he said.
"And giving him the benefit of the doubt."
Prosecutors believe Essa, 41, killed his wife on
Feb. 24, 2005, to end a marriage that stood in the way of his love
affair with nurse Michelle Stevens, formerly Madeline, with whom he
worked as an emergency room doctor at Akron General Hospital.
Essa's attorneys, Mark Marein and Steven Bradley,
argued throughout the trial that Stevens was just one of many women
with whom Essa maintained discreet and casual sexual relationships.
And he did not love her, despite a love letter and e-mails to the
contrary, his attorneys claimed.
Essa's lawyers even went so far as to say that
police did not properly eliminate Stevens or another mistress,
Marguerita Montanez, as Rosemarie Essa's true killer.
Marein and Bradley declined to comment on their way
out of the courtroom Friday, saying only that they are disappointed
with the verdict.
Jurors said that they believed Essa had fallen for
Stevens in a way that was different from the other women in his life,
and the defense team's counter-theory lacked reinforcement.
"It ended up being pretty weak," one juror said.
"They never put either Marguerita or Michelle in the house before
The testimony of Firas Essa also proved to be
damning for his brother, the jury said. Firas Essa, who answered
prosecutors' questions evasively at first, later returned to the
witness stand with a changed demeanor and told jurors that his brother
confessed to killing Rosemarie Essa. Jurors said Firas Essa's second
testimony seemed "genuine and real."
"Initially, he was very controlled and guarded,
emotionally and physically," one juror said. "When he came back, he
seemed to kind of let his guard down and speak the truth."
Jurors chuckled when asked about the credibility of
testimony from others in the cast of characters -- including Jamal
Khalife, who was living in Lebanon, a fugitive from his own criminal
past, when he took in Yazeed Essa in the summer of 2005. Khalife
testified that Essa, who spent his year in Lebanon drunk or high on
drugs, bragged daily about having murdered his wife and delighted in
his status as one of America's Most Wanted.
Essa's attorneys sought to undermine Khalife's
credibility by pointing out inconsistencies in his testimony and
previous statements to police.
But jurors said they took the time to read the
entire transcript of Khalife's interview with law enforcement
officials and found it to be largely consistent with the story he told
Earlier in the week, the jury had requested during
its deliberation to examine and pull apart a calcium capsule similar
to the one Essa gave his wife on the day she died. Jurors said Friday
that they wanted to know firsthand whether it took any special skills
to empty the capsules, and they discovered that it is easy to do.
However, they did not spend time deliberating over
the state's lack of evidence linking Essa directly to the cyanide
purchase -- a critical point for Essa's defense throughout the trial.
"He's obviously well-connected," a juror concluded.
"He's a smart guy. That wasn't an issue for us. We worked with the
facts we had and common sense."
The jurors added that Essa's actions immediately
before and after his wife's death had far greater influence on their
decision than the fact that he fled the country. One juror referred to
the 18-month long international manhunt for Essa that ended in Cyprus
as "the icing on the cake."
But one detail weighed heavily upon the panel
during the past six weeks -- Essa's facial expressions, void of any
sign of sadness or regret over the loss of his wife or having not seen
his two young children in five years. Even when Assistant County
Prosecutor Steven Dever projected a photo of Rosemarie Essa with her
arms wrapped around the children, Yazeed Essa did not flinch.
"I was watching him the whole time," one juror
said. "When your kids aren't there you're going to miss them, you're
going to cry. He hadn't seen these kids in five years. But he had no
expression, no tears, nothing."
For that reason, the same juror said she stared
Essa down as she entered the courtroom for the verdict announcement.
"I looked him right in the face," she said. "He was
just standing there like, 'I think I beat this here.' But uh-uh."
The juror's commentary drew laughter from Rosemarie
Essa's family, the DiPuccios, and the third round of applause for the
And before the jurors filed from the room for the
last time, Rosemarie Essa's brother, Dominic DiPuccio, stood and
thanked them tearfully for their commitment to the case and to finding
the truth among hours of conflicting testimony.
The jurors nodded and said it was difficult to
watch the DiPuccio family suffer in the courtroom and to bear the
burden of the life-altering decision they were about to make.
"The emotional experience for us has been
incredible," a juror said, placing his hands over his heart and
fighting back tears. "But what you guys have been through -- we can't
In the moments after the verdict was announced --
bringing five agonizing years to an end -- a flood of emotions washed
through the courtroom, catching the DiPuccios, lawyers, detectives,
even journalists in the current. Assistant County Prosecutors Dever,
Anna Faraglia and Matt Meyer stood together, shaking hands and
embracing members of the DiPuccio family, as if part of a receiving
line at a wedding reception.
"God love you," Dever whispered to Rosemarie Essa's
mother, Gee Gee DiPuccio, as he wrapped his arms around the sobbing
mother. "You know, you had a beautiful daughter. You know that? I
didn't know her, but from what I learned about her, she was beautiful.
I'm sorry that this had to happen to you. May God bless you."
Common Pleas Judge Deena Calabrese is scheduled to
sentence Essa Tuesday at 2 p.m. He faces life in prison without parole
eligibility for 20 years.
Plain Dealer Reporter Michael Sangiacomo
contributed to this story.
Dr. Yazeed Essa
By Tricia Romano - TruTV.com
A Plan Gone Awry
Yazeed Essa spent nearly five years trying to delay
the reckoning. In those years, he had partied on three different
continents, assumed a false identity, bedded women in faraway places,
lounged on beaches and gambled like a tycoon.
But no matter what he did, his fate proved
inescapable: he would be brought home to the less glamorous city of
Gates Mills, Ohio, to face a decidedly less glamorous fate: life
behind bars for the murder of Rosemarie Essa, his wife of nearly six
years, in perhaps the coldest way possible: cyanide poisoning.
It wasn't supposed to have been this way.
On February 24, 2005, Rosemarie Essa was supposed
to take the short and fast route to meet her sister Deanna at the
movies. She was supposed to take the highway. That way, by the time
the cyanide pill her husband had given her had kicked in, she would
have been going 55 or 65 miles per hour. The crash would have been
full force. She would have likely died almost instantly from the
injuries sustained in the accident. She wouldn't have had the time to
call her friend Eva McGregor to tell her that she felt funny. She
wouldn't have been able to relay that her husband had insisted she
take a calcium pill before leaving a supplement since she was trying to
get pregnant again.
She would have been dead on arrival. No difficult
questions would have been asked. Yazeed Essa would have been a free
man, free to have sex with his many mistresses, his veritable harem of
nurses besotted with him, and various other so-called friends with
benefits. He would have been free of the woman who was the mother of
his two children, the woman he called Amana, after the refrigerator
brand because, he said, he found her so icy. He wouldn't have had to
pay a red cent during or after a potentially protracted divorce. In
fact, he probably would have been paid insurance money.
But murderers are often cheap. And careless.
No, this wasn't the way things were supposed to
A Suspicious Death
Instead, for whatever reason, Rosie took the slow
way to the movies. She took a long, winding road, with slow speeds.
She called Eva McGregor 10 minutes after leaving and told her she felt
really strange. McGregor testified in court: "She had taken a calcium
pill right before she left theher house. She didn't really want to
take it. And she said, as she was in it, you know, rushing out the
door, he said, 'Here, take it. Take your calcium.' 'Now, I don't know
if that's what's making me sick.'"
McGregor thought it was weird, too, and kept
replaying the conversation in her head. Rosie hung up and called her
husband, whose phone went straight to voicemail.
And then, as Essa had predicted, his wife crashed.
But instead of suffering brutal injuries, her SUV merely grazed
another car and wound to a stop. She was in a fender bender, with
minor scrapes and bruises. According to Dateline NBC, Tara Tamsen, a
medical technician who witnessed the accident rushed over and
immediately sensed something was not right.
Rosie began vomiting in the car. She quickly lost
consciousness and was rushed to the hospital, where her killer, her
husband, was working in the emergency room.
Yazeed Essa was a doctor.
He was supposed to save lives, not take them.
He watched impassively as the ER team struggled to
save his wife's life, the life he had imperiled and the life he
expected was gone for good. He watched her family sobbing
uncontrollably. He exhibited strange behavior for a man who should
have been alarmed or grieving. Several people testified that Essa was
emotionless; he did not cry, he did not ask questions, and when he
sent out an email announcing his wife's death, it was perfunctory.
Dominic DiPuccio, Rosie's brother, told Dateline that the email read:
"Just wanted to let you know that Rosie died yesterday in a minor car
accident. She will be missed.'"
The Calcium Pill
Rosie's death was perplexing to the doctors. It was
clear to them that her injuries weren't enough to kill her. Something
else was wrong. Rosie's brother Dominic DiPuccio had called Eva
McGregor to tell her about his sister's death, not knowing that she
and Eva had spoken before the crash, and Eva was startled. She was
likely the last person to talk to Rosie, and she Dominic about her
conversation with Rosie while she was driving. She told him about the
He was in disbelief. He and the rest of the family
couldn't believe that someone they loved possibly had willed the death
of their sister. The realization nearly tore apart Rosie's two
brothers and their wivesthey met in a church parking lot to discuss
their next move, agonizing over whether to mention the suspicion to
They reached a truce. The would simply ask the
coroner to do a complete examination of the body; if something
suspicious was found, they would relay what they knew about the
But they didn't count on Eva McGregor talking to
other people. According to the Dateline report, "Bitter Pill," by
coincidence, McGregor had run into her neighbor Christine DiCillo a
nurse who had worked with both of the Essas and relayed her phone call
with Rosie. DeCillo wasted no time and called in the tip to the police
who were already investigating the accident as suspicious.
Rick Bell, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor
told The Grand Rapids Press, that Yazeed Essa learned the night after
the murder that people knew about the pill he had given her. " His jaw
drops, and his eyes open according to witnesses, and he's shocked that
they know about these calcium pills," Bell said.
For many, it was the first crack in a facade that
had seemed perfect to the outside world. But Yazeed Essa, it was soon
revealed, was a master at pretending to be one thing while being
another. He was a man with many faces, and many lives. On the face of
it, he was in a happy marriage with a beautiful devoted wife and two
childrenpart of a large extended family that included his brothers and
sister, and his wife's big Italian family.
Man with Two Faces
Essa was an immigrant's sonhis father was a grocery
store owner of Palestinian descentwho had earned his riches the good
old-fashioned American way, through sheer hard work, perseverance and
a bit of cunning.
While he was a med student studying anesthesiology
(he later switched to become an ER doctor), he and his brother Firas
had opened a paging company in 1996. They were even featured in a
story in Cleveland's daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer.
Yazeed cut a dashing figure: tall and broad
shouldered, with bright green-blue eyes, an olive complexion and a
head full of thick brown hair. He was widely seen as a catch by the
nurses and doctors at the hospital where he worked as a resident.
But if people peered closer, they would have seen
something much different than what he presented to the outside world.
That pager company? Two years after he was quoted
in The Plain Dealer that they made $2 million a year, he and his
brother, were indicted, along with 9 others for tampering with billing
records and theft. Though Essa's record was expungedit is not clear if
he was found guilty or notthat was just the beginning of his problems.
He was also an alcoholic. He'd had his medical
license revoked in 2004 when he'd skipped out on a mandated drug test
and his required quarterly interview. According to the Akron Beacon
Journal, Essa's license was reinstated a month later on a
And, it was revealed during the trial, he was a
philanderer. He had a seemingly endless string of women, whom he would
often take to his other apartment, one that he used for a satellite
dish company he owned with his brother. And, according to The Plain
Dealer, his brother Firas testified that his brother once slept with
six women in a 24-hour period.
He had even, allegedly, given his wife herpes, Eva
McGregor testified later at the trial.
After his wife's murder, he brazenly hired two of
his mistresses to be his kids' daytime and nighttime nannies. He told
one of them, Michelle Madeline (nee Stephens), that they would be able
to come out as a couple after time had passed, perhaps in the fall.
But his scheme never got that far.
A Change in Plans
With the accident not going as planned, and the
police investigating the death as suspicious, Yazeed was on high
A few weeks after Rosie's death, on March 17, he
got a call from the police. They wanted him to come to talk about some
calcium supplements. According to a Dateline report. Essa calmly
explained that he had given Rosie calcium pills, because she was
"Two weeks before I was over at my mom's house, and
I thought about this as well. My mom had this older woman over and
they were talking about osteoporosis and whatnot. And I'd been
toldRosie was therethat we should probably, you know, she's over 35,
she should probably start taking calcium supplements."
According to Dateline, he took the detective Gary
McKee over to his house to hand over the bottle of calcium pills.
McKee met one of the mistresses, Marguerita Montanez, who was then
serving as the daytime nanny for the kids.
Essa handed the pills over and the detective left.
He then did what most guilty men do. He panicked.
But first, he had a party.
As Rick Bell told The Grand Rapids Press, "It can
be described as nothing other than a going-away party."
That night at 4:00 a.m., he called Deanna, his
sister, and asked if she could watch the kids. There had been another
car accident: a brother of a close friend in North Carolina. He wanted
to be a good friend.
The next day, no one could reach him.
A Life On The Lam
Deanna, Rosie's sister, had called the friend to
ask him how his brother was doing, and the friend told him there was
In fact, according to a report in The Plain Dealer,
Yaz had not headed south, but north to Detroit where he was met by his
brother Firas and a few other people where they blew $50,000 at the
MGM Grand Detroit Casino.
Then Yazeed disappeared.
While the family was frantically searching for him,
Yazeed Essa had transformed from a small-town doctor living a normal
life to a fugitive on the lam. He had passport under the name,
"Maurice Khalife," and he had figured out how to move in underground
He had hooked up with a man named Jamal Khalife in
Beirut. According to Dateline, Khalife's brother was Essa's
connection. The Khalifes obtained the false passport and set him up in
Later, Khalife testified in court that Essa had
told him everythingthe cyanide, the accident, and his escape.
The Associated Press reported that, over his years
as a fugitive, Essa spent time on three continents. According to the
office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, he had spent time
first in Cyprus, then Lebanon, and had traveled to Greece, Syria,
Miami, and eventually back to Cyprus.
While overseas, Essa played the part of an
international, jet-setting playboya handsome doctor who frequented
nightclubs and parties. According to The Plain Dealer, Firas testified
that his brother would also hook up with women he met online.
It was in Cyprus where his run of luck would come
to a stop.
The Manhunt Begins
Back in Ohio, the family had gone into a
full-fledged panic. As soon as Deanna found out that Essa lied about
going to his friend's, the family went to the house, and scoured it
for clues. Dominic told Dateline, that they found an envelope that
looked like it had contained a passport: " I said, he's gone. He's
gone," said Dominic DiPuccio to Dateline.
DiPuccio filed a missing person's report and
uncovered credit card statements that showed Essa had purchased plane
tickets to Cyprus.
Soon afterward, the coroner's report was announced.
There was evidence of potassium cyanide in Rosie Essa's body. Her
confusion, her nausea, her dizziness, while talking on the phone now
made total sense. But nothing else made sense for her family.
Everything they had ever believed about Yazeed Essa had come to a full
stop. There was little doubt Essa had killed Rosie.
On April 18, the Akron General Medical Center ruled
Rosie's death a homicide. Because Ohio has a death penalty, Essa's
intention to remain overseas was solidified, no matter how many public
pleas the family made for him to come home.
Three months after the murder, the FBI and the
Secret Service were called in to help track Essa. They traced him to
Lebanon, where they could see his comings and goings. But because
Lebanon doesn't have an extradition treaty, they couldn't do anything
In October 2006, the FBI's Phil Torsney and his
team got an unexpected gift from Yazeed Essa: he took a flight to
Cyprus, which does have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Police detained him at the airport, a year and a
half after the murder.
However, it turns out to be the beginning of a long
battle. Cyprus, while it will extradite fugitives to the U.S., it
won't do so if there is a death penalty involved.
Because of the death penalty, Essa fought tooth and
nail against coming home.
A Fight For Extradition Rivaling Roman Polanski
Starting in November 2006, Essa began a protracted
legal battle. For nearly three years, his lawyers pushed back against
all requests to return him to the U.S.
Despite Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason
repeatedly stressing to the press, "we're not seeking the death
penalty," Essa's lawyer, Larry Zukerman, told the AP that the charges
could be amended anytime to include the death penalty. Essa at that
time wasn't being charged with first degree murder, but aggravated
murder, which doesn't include the death penalty as a sentence.
Finally in June 2007, over two years after the
murder, a court in Cyprus ruled that Essa could be sent to the U.S.
But Essa dug in his heels and fought back, filing
an appeal in February 2008.
"Our client has instructed us to seek recourse to
the European Court of Human Rights if this appeal is rejected," lawyer
Marios Georgiou told The Associated Press.
But nearly 10 months later, in December 2008, Essa
dropped his appeal. He would be coming home.
The next month he was returned to the U.S. It was
nearly four years since his disappearance. But the long, arduous road
to justice was not yet over. First, his court date was continuously
postponed because, it turned out, prosecutors were trying to cut a
deal with his siblings, Firas and his sister Runa Ighneim.
Essa Siblings: Let's Make A Deal
It was revealed in the course of the investigation
that Firas Essa and his sister, Runa Ighneim, had had a substantial
hand in helping their brother escape. Firas had purchased the plane
ticket to Beirut and bought pre-paid cell phones to communicate with
each other. His sister, in addition to lying in court, had mailed Essa
an FBI fingerprint card so he could obscure his identity.
Both had sent money orders to their
brotheraccording to The Plain Dealer, as much as $2.4 million had been
transferred from their satellite dish businesses in 2005 and 2006.
Eventually, their potential sentences (up to 11
years for Firas and six months for Ighneim) were greatly reduced:
Firas received five years probation, a $25,000 fine and house arrest,
while his sister received one year probation, 90 days of house arrest,
and a $2,000 fine.
But at the trial, the prosecution got more than
they bargained for when Firas testified about his brother's guilt, and
Trial and Sentence
On January 25, 2010, nearly five years after the
murder, Yazeed Essa met his fate.
With each passing day, the trial became more and
more sordid, as the details about his affairs, and his open resentment
of his wife spilled outdetails related by his brother and some of his
There was an attempt by the defense to pin the
murder on one of the mistresses, Marguerita Montanez. The defense
insisted that because she had been infatuated with Essa she had even
scheduled her wedding on the same day that Essa married Rosie.
There was an attempt to portray the cyanide in the
calcium bottle as the result of a tampered or defective bottle.
Neither ploy seemed to gain much traction with the
On March 5, 2010, Yazeed Essa finally had to face
the jury. The event that he had spent nearly five years avoiding had
come to pass. He was found guilty of murdering his wife.
He received a maximum life sentence and received
the news stone-faced.
Despite the defense's efforts, the jury didn't buy
their scenarios of tampered bottles or murderous mistresses.
The jury's logic for convicting Essa was simple. An
innocent man doesn't flee.