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Poisoned Love

Poisoned Love

3.5 34
by Caitlin Rother

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Case seen on Inside Edition, Good Morning America, and 48 Hours

Accident, Suicide. . . Or Murder?

On November 6, 2000, paramedics answered a call to find Kristin Rossum, 24, sobbing. Her husband, Greg de Villers, wasn't breathing and she claimed he had overdosed on drugs after learning she was leaving him. But family and friends who knew of Greg's


Case seen on Inside Edition, Good Morning America, and 48 Hours

Accident, Suicide. . . Or Murder?

On November 6, 2000, paramedics answered a call to find Kristin Rossum, 24, sobbing. Her husband, Greg de Villers, wasn't breathing and she claimed he had overdosed on drugs after learning she was leaving him. But family and friends who knew of Greg's distaste for drugs weren't buying Kristin's story—particularly the idea that he would take his own life.

American Beauty

The daughter of a well-to-do California family, Rossum was a brainy blonde beauty whose talent for toxicology had won her a post at the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office. But her sweet smile masked a dark side. She'd developed a taste for methamphetamine in high school, and six months after her marriage to Greg, she'd begun seeking secret trysts with other men.

Toxic Passion

At the time of her husband's death, Rossum was engaged in an illicit affair with her married boss. Investigators found that the Medical Examiner's Office was missing supplies of meth and fentanyl, the narcotic that had killed her husband. With each clue discovered, another piece of Rossum's "good girl" façade fell away. What the world would eventually see was the true face of a murderer—and the hand of justice. . .

16 Pages Of Shocking Photos

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A true-crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat . . . a brilliant job of captivating the inner workings of a female killer." ---Aphrodite Jones, New York Times bestselling author

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.40(w) x 6.78(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Poisoned Love

By Caitlin Rother


Copyright © 2005 Caitlin Rother
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7860-2427-8


It was a Monday morning, November 6, 2000, when Stefan Gruenwald pulled up to the building his small biotech company shared with three others. He was surprised to see that his licensing manager wasn't at his desk, making calls.

Typically, Greg de Villers had already started his day by the time his boss arrived. He was a dependable guy. Meticulous, diligent, and a team player to boot. Gruenwald had known Greg since he'd hired him several years earlier at another biotech company. After Gruenwald left to start his own business, he lured Greg away to work for him.

Greg was one of only eight employees at Orbigen, so it didn't take long for Gruenwald to poke his head in each office to ask if anyone had seen Greg that morning. They hadn't. Greg was rarely late, and when he was, he always called to let Gruenwald know. He'd never missed a day of work without calling.

Gruenwald wondered if Greg was having car problems. Maybe he'd broken down somewhere. Greg had no cell phone, so around 10:10 A.M., Gruenwald called the apartment in the San Diego neighborhood of University City, where Greg lived with Kristin Rossum, his pretty, petite, blond wife of seventeen months. He let it ring for a while. But no one picked up.

Although Greg tended not to socialize with his coworkers after hours, he did drink a Coke or a beer with them at the occasional TGIF gatherings, and Gruenwald had worked with him long enough to feel that he knew Greg pretty well. Greg had good manners and was liked by his colleagues, who thought he was a nice guy and a bit of a health nut. He'd gone on a fishing trip with them to Mexico once but said he was anxious to get home to Kristin rather than go out for drinks on the way back. She, his two brothers, and the small circle of close friends he'd made over the years were the people with whom he liked to spend his spare time.

Greg wasn't the kind of outgoing guy who got noticed in a crowd for his strong personality. He was more of an easygoing, middle-of-the-road kind of guy, a little on the shy side around new people and somewhat soft-spoken. Kristin, on the other hand, had more of an allure, especially when it came to men. Greg really seemed to be in love with her, always rushing home to eat one of her special dinners and watch a video. The only time Gruenwald had seen Greg stay late at the office was the week in early October, when Kristin went to a conference in Milwaukee. Kristin worked as a toxicologist at the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, where she conducted tests to determine what drugs may have caused suspicious or sudden deaths.

Gruenwald met Kristin at a company Christmas party before she and Greg were married in June 1999, and they'd all gone out for drinks afterwards. She seemed nice. A little flirtatious, but funny, outgoing, and very intelligent. She and Greg seemed to get along well, and they looked good together. Recently, Greg had asked Gruenwald to keep an ear out for a new job for Kristin. He'd also talked about having Orbigen help him go to law school so he could become a patent attorney for the company. In a year or two, once Orbigen got off the ground, Gruenwald told him, "We can definitely do that."

When Greg still hadn't shown up by eleven o'clock, office manager Terry Huang was getting concerned as well. Nearly three hours late without calling — it was so unlike Greg. Huang tried reaching him at his apartment around 11:15 but got no answer. It just rang and rang. Huang and Gruenwald shared their unease a few hours later and tried calling Greg again from Huang's office. Still no response.

By this point, Gruenwald was worried enough to wonder whether he should go over there. Greg lived only ten minutes away. But he got lost in his work and never made it out of the office.

By 5 P.M., Gruenwald figured Greg must've had a family emergency. The previous week, he'd worked a half day on Thursday so he could deal with a family problem, and he left a little early on Friday to meet up with his in-laws. Maybe the problem had gotten out of hand. Greg also hadn't been feeling well the week before. The previous Monday morning, he came to the office feeling crummy and told a coworker that he'd thrown up after drinking only a couple of beers that weekend. Not to mention he seemed unusually agitated all week. Especially on Friday.

At 5:40 P.M., Huang and Gruenwald huddled together and tried calling Greg again on the speakerphone. There was still no answer. They were quite befuddled.

Huang tried once more around 7 P.M., just before leaving the office, and this time Kristin picked up. He asked to speak to Greg, but Kristin said he was sleeping. Huang asked if everything was all right, because Greg hadn't come to work that day. Kristin said she'd phoned Orbigen that morning and left a message saying Greg wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be coming in. Didn't they get it? She apologized if no one received the message. Kristin thanked him for calling and hung up.

The call left Huang feeling uneasy. He sensed a strange edge to Kristin's voice. She seemed unresponsive, like she wanted to get off the phone. He wondered why she wouldn't let him talk to Greg. Why, if Greg was home all day, didn't he pick up the phone? And why didn't anyone at Orbigen get the message Kristin said she left?

Gruenwald called Greg's apartment once more as well, around 9:30 P.M. A frazzled Kristin answered on the first ring. She was crying, and he could hardly understand her.

"Greg isn't feeling well, and the ambulance is here. I really can't talk," she said. "I'll call you back."

Gruenwald waited until 1 A.M. to hear back from her. Still troubled, he finally gave up and went to bed.

Paramedic Sean Jordan and his assistant, April Butler, had just finished a quick dinner at Rubio's, a fish taco restaurant, when they got a call at 9:23P.M.: young male down, not breathing and no pulse. They were only a mile or two from the address on Regents Road. With the ambulance siren blaring and red lights flashing, they sped down Torrey Pines Road and arrived three minutes later.

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) had purchased the La Jolla Del Sol complex about a year earlier as off-campus housing, so the 911 call went first to the campus police dispatch center.

"My husband is not breathing," Kristin told the dispatcher.

The UCSD dispatcher transferred Kristin to the city of San Diego's fire-medical dispatcher, who stayed on the phone with her until the paramedics were inside her apartment. The Del Sol security guard was also alerted about the 911 call, so he'd already opened the gate for Jordan and Butler by the time they pulled up to the red-tiled driveway.

Balconies with gray railings lined the mocha-colored buildings of Del Sol, which blended into the sea of residential towers in north University City, a densely populated neighborhood of college students and young professionals who worked at UCSD or the biotech, high-tech, and finance companies nearby. The area, dubbed "the Golden Triangle" because it was contained by three intersecting freeways, had grown up first around the university and then, during the late 1970s, around University Towne Center, a shopping mall. Apartment or condo complexes sprang up and filled up, followed by office and medical buildings, restaurants, bars, and gyms, until virtually every lot was developed. Many of the local professors, doctors, lawyers, and real estate developers lived a couple of miles to the west in the older and more affluent coastal community of La Jolla.

Jordan and Butler carried their gear up the stairs to the second-floor apartment, where they found Kristin standing in the living room, crying and talking to the dispatcher on a cordless phone. She motioned them to the bedroom, where Greg was lying on the floor, flat on his back and framed by an unmade queen-size bed to the left, a chest of three long drawers to the right, and a taller six-drawer bureau above his head. His slim, six-foot, 160-pound body was dressed in pajama bottoms and a T-shirt. His skin was pale, and his lips were blue around the edges. Red rose petals were scattered on the carpet around his upper torso, with a single stem and stamen lying between his head, the bureau, and a princess phone. Jordan started setting up next to Greg's left arm. Butler tripped over the comforter as she squeezed into position between Greg's head and the bureau, setting aside an unframed wedding photo of the couple, which had been propped up against the base of the bureau, as if someone had positioned it just so.

Greg looked a little nervous in the photo. He smiled for the camera with a quiet contentment, all dressed up in his tuxedo and striped cravat, his dark brown hair slicked back and his blue eyes shining. Kristin looked radiant, her shiny blond locks pulled up under a white-flowered tiara and a veil trailing down her back. She wore a string of pearls with her white dress, which had short lace sleeves that covered her shoulders, and she held a bouquet of pink and white flowers tied with bows of ribbon. They both seemed so very happy as Greg declared his supreme devotion to her in front of their friends and family.

In all the commotion, the wedding photo got moved to the top of the chest on Greg's right side, next to a blue plastic cup of clear, odorless liquid that looked like water. An open bottle of aspirin that contained about a quarter of its original two hundred tablets sat atop the bureau behind Butler. And a yellow cup, also containing clear, odorless liquid, rested on a nightstand on the opposite side of the bed.

Several campus police officers arrived just before paramedic Joe Preciado rode up on a fire engine and joined Butler and Jordan in trying to resuscitate Greg. Apart from the fact that their twenty-six-year-old patient looked too young and healthy to have a heart attack from natural causes, something else seemed odd to Preciado. Initially, he thought the red blotches on the beige carpet were smudges of wet blood. But when he kneeled down on Greg's right side, the smudges moved. He was dumbfounded. What were red rose petals doing all over the floor?

It was a scene right out of that movie American Beauty, where Kevin Spacey is lying on his back in bed, fantasizing in a dreamlike state, and red rose petals slowly float down from the ceiling and cover his body.

Jordan checked for a pulse but found none. Greg felt warm to the touch, as if he'd recently taken his last breath. Jordan took a quick scan of the bedroom, looking for clues to explain what Greg might have taken. But he saw no prescription pill vials, no syringes, no sign of illegal drug use, nothing that looked out of place, and no suicide note. He and Preciado asked Kristin if her husband had any medical problems or was taking any medications.

"Not that I know of," she told them, though at one point she brought out a bottle of Vicodin from the bathroom.

Greg's pupils were fixed and dilated, but Jordan was determined to make every effort to bring him back. Jordan intubated Greg, then Butler hooked up the breathing bag and rhythmically squeezed air into his lungs. The heart monitor registered a flat line. With Greg's heart refusing to pump blood through his veins, Preciado tried but found it virtually impossible to get a needle into Greg's right arm. Jordan had more luck with the other arm, though he had to try a couple times before he got the needle in.

Jordan tried everything in his drug box that might get Greg's heart beating again. Atropine. Epinephrine. A pure sugar substance usually given to diabetics. And finally, 2 mg of Narcan, which reverses the effects of opiates, just in case Greg had overdosed on one. But nothing worked.

Jordan rolled Greg's body over to slide him onto a backboard for transport to the nearest hospital. That was when he saw the purple marks of lividity on Greg's back and buttocks, a sign that the heart had ceased to beat and gravity was causing blood to pool in areas closest to the ground. There were no rose petals under his body.

At 10:03 P.M., Jordan and Butler carried their patient down the stairs to their ambulance and drove him to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, about four minutes away. One of the campus police officers followed, with Kristin in his cruiser. The emergency room doctor tried again to revive Greg, but he was gone. Greg was officially declared dead at 10:19 P.M., six days before his twenty-seventh birthday.

Kristin called her boss, a handsome, thirty-one-year-old Australian toxicologist, as soon as she got to the hospital and asked him to join her there. Two minutes later, she called her parents, crying. Her father answered the phone.

"Daddy, Greg stopped breathing," she said. "I'm so scared."

Ralph Rossum said he would meet her at the hospital as quickly as he could, handed the phone to his wife, Constance, and ran out to the car. Kristin spoke briefly to her mother, explaining that Greg was in intensive care.

Kristin's boss, Michael Robertson, arrived at the hospital about fifteen minutes later. While they were in the waiting area together, he put his arm around her, comforted her, and held her hand. The nurses thought he seemed like a very supportive supervisor.

Kristin was still crying, but she was able to answer the ER nurse's questions about Greg's medical history and what drugs he might have taken. Kristin said he might have used some old prescriptions she'd purchased in Tijuana five years earlier, when she'd been trying to get off crystal methamphetamine. Then, the nurse told her the bad news. They'd tried again to resuscitate her husband, but they couldn't get him back.

Kristin's mother got a call at 10:49 P.M. from Michael, who introduced himself as Kristin's boss, and they talked for about ten minutes. He said Kristin was cold standing there in her pajamas, and he wondered what to do. Constance thanked him and suggested he drive Kristin back to the apartment. Kristin's father was on his way down to meet her at the hospital, but he would figure out where to go.

After allowing the news of Greg's death to settle in, a social worker approached Kristin about tissue donation. Greg had decided to join Kristin as an organ and tissue donor about two weeks earlier, when he'd renewed his driver's license, but because his heart had already stopped, his organs couldn't be harvested. However, some of his skin could be used to help burn victims; his corneas, veins, and heart valves could be transplanted into needy recipients; and some of his bones could be saved as well. At 11:30 P.M., Kristin signed the necessary paperwork and then headed home with her boss.

Earlier that night, Constance phoned Greg's mother, Marie, to tell her Greg was being taken to the emergency room after having a bad reaction to cough syrup and some other medication.

Marie called the hospital to see if she could learn more. But since Marie was home alone, the nurse said she'd have to call her back. Marie immediately called Jerome, the oldest of Greg's younger brothers, with the upsetting news.

Jerome tried calling Scripps himself, but he, too, was home alone, so the nurse told him to go to his mother's and call back from there. Why wouldn't she just tell him what was going on? Jerome drove to Marie's condo in Thousand Oaks and called Constance to see if he could get some better information. She didn't know anything more and promised that Ralph would call them from the hospital with any new developments.

But Jerome couldn't wait for that. He wanted to know what happened, and he couldn't understand why no one would tell him. He called the hospital again, and this time the nurse asked if the sheriff's deputy had arrived. "No," he said, so she put him on hold to talk to the deputy, who was coming to deliver the bad news in person. Marie, who was sitting by the window, saw a Ventura County sheriff's cruiser pull up outside. The nurse got back on the line with Jerome, but he was so insistent that she went ahead and told him that Greg had "expired" before the deputy made it to the front door.

Jerome couldn't believe it. How was this possible? He'd spoken to his brother only a few days earlier. Greg had called while Jerome was watching a DVD on Alaska, and he was too tired to talk, so he put Greg off and promised to call him back. Unfortunately, he never got around to it.


Excerpted from Poisoned Love by Caitlin Rother. Copyright © 2005 Caitlin Rother. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Caitlin Rother, a daily newspaper reporter for almost twenty years, now writes both fiction and nonfiction books full-time. She was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated staff writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe, among other publications.

Tanya Eby has been a voice-over artist for over a decade. She is an Audie-nominated and AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. Besides narrating, Tanya spends her time teaching creative writing classes at the collegiate level, blogging, and working on her own novels.

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Poisoned Love 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Kay2001 More than 1 year ago
As I always say, I don't like to tear a book down, just because I did not like it means nothing and I don't like swaying anyone else. That being said, short and sweet here......... I love True Crime, I did not love this book. It started out well then just flopped about 100 pages in. I found the author very repetitive in her writing, retelling details again and again. It took me weeks to get through this. I finally wound up skipping towards the end just to see what the verdict was.
OneReadingMomma More than 1 year ago
I have read oodles of true crime books that are three or four hundred pages and never have I been as bored as I was when I read this. It is true the author repeats the same details over and over, too. Such a shame, because this could have been an awesome read-all the ingredients are there, but the author fails to deliver. What a bummer!
LHedgpeth More than 1 year ago
Fans of the true crime genre will rejoice with another entry to add to their library, Poisoned Love by Caitlin Rother. In the style of Ann Rule, a true crime favorite of mine, Ms. Rother delves deep into the background and psyche of not only the accused but the victims as well and provides painstaking detail of the crime, the trial and the aftermath. Reading Poisoned Love will make it clear to the reader that Ms. Rother spent an inordinate amount of time on her research and with admirable results. Every person introduced in her work has a voice, not just "friend of the victim", "co-worker of the accused", etc. This is perhaps the strongest point of Poisoned Love in my opinion - - rather than merely being "the victim", Greg de Villers is presented as a real human being, with thoughts, dreams and aspirations and you feel sadness and even grief at his life ending prematurely. Ms. Rother also does a good job at presenting the de Villers family's sense of loss and helplessness as Greg's brother Jerome fights to prove his brother did not take his own life. The accused, Kristin Rossum, remained an enigma for me even after finishing the book. She exemplified the brainy beauty who should have had it all but threw it all away for drugs, for an illicit affair, and/or for narcissism. She was frightening to a degree in her cold natured indifference and the void that seemed to be present in her makeup. While Ms. Rother's attention to detail is commendable, for some readers it may be a bit too much. The book itself is hefty (coming in at just under 500 paperback pages) and there were a few sections where I felt it dragged a bit and portions could likely have been minimized or cut so as to keep the story moving fluidly. Even having watched a true crime program or two on this case and knowing the outcome, I was drawn into the book and learned many facts of the case I had not previously known. In short, I thought Poisoned Love was extremely well written and researched and one of the better true crime books for those who want an in-depth look at the case rather than merely glorified violence. I would not hesitate to recommend Poisoned Love to a true crime buff or to any reader looking to explore the genre. Caitlin Rother is certainly an author to watch out for and one that will be on my "must read" list. ©Psychotic State Book Reviews, 2012
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a very good read. It's interesting, true and isn't full of cursing and sex details as most books like these are, when it's part of the story. The writer could have put these things in it, as I'm sure it was a major part of the true story, but it told it without the details and it was great! I would/could recommend this book to anyone that loves true crime.
sfc98 More than 1 year ago
This is a good book that tells a true story without getting too technical in the court room part (which I find many true crimes to do). It was interesting even if you knew the story and the outcome. Still some unanswered questions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best true crime books I've ever read, and I've read about 100. Rother is one of the best storytellers out there and clearly did her research for this book. Excellent read!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is powerful and the writing unbiased. The writer spent a lot of time gathering data and it is reflected in the story's seamless transitions. Good stuff
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Well written book and well researched......Bn
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