Skip to main content

Former Ohio doctor gets life for wife's cyanide poisoning death

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Click to play
Doc gets life for wife's murder
  • Yazeed Essa was convicted last week of giving wife calcium pills laced with cyanide
  • Essa will be eligible for parole in 20 years because crime occurred before change in law
  • Judge laments she cannot give Essa a harsher sentence: "You destroyed your family"
  • Prosecutors alleged that the philandering doctor poisoned his wife to escape a marriage

(CNN) -- 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.

Video: Juror: 'no tears' from killer

"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 prosecutor's office.

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 soul mate.

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 her ill.

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."