Arizona arsonist likely took cyanide after conviction-sheriff

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 10, 2012 8:57 PM
Arizona arsonist likely took cyanide after conviction-sheriff

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona man, who collapsed in court and died shortly after being convicted of setting his $3.5 million mansion ablaze, likely committed suicide by taking cyanide, authorities said on Tuesday.

Defendant Michael Marin, 53, collapsed and died just after a Maricopa County Superior Court jury found him guilty last month of arson of an occupied structure, for which he faced more than 16 years in prison.

Investigators probing the death found a canister of sodium cyanide powder inside his car on Monday night that they said is likely linked to his death on June 28.

"All indications point to suicide but until the coroner's final report ... this case still remains open," Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told a news conference.

Autopsy results by the county medical examiner are not expected for several weeks.

Video of Marin's sentencing shot by a television pool photographer showed him putting something in his mouth minutes before he collapsed.

Arpaio said investigators were able to find Marin's vehicle in a Phoenix suburb after his adult son received a delayed email from Marin. In it, Marin detailed the vehicle's location and said his will was in order if "things don't go good in court."

A small silver canister with the words "sodium cyanide" was discovered in the vehicle's rear cargo area that was purchased by Marin from a California supplier in 2011, he said.

Sodium cyanide is commonly used to extract gold during the mining process and is also a quick-acting toxin that inhibits breathing. Arpaio said he believed that Marin fashioned the powder into capsules to be consumed in court.

Prosecutors believed that Marin was having financial problems and could not afford a large payment due on his 10,000-square-foot home, according to court documents.

Marin, a former Wall Street trader who reportedly climbed Mount Everest, was accused of setting the fire in 2009 four separate areas of his luxury home in Phoenix.

Documents show he escaped by climbing down a rope ladder from the second floor, clad in scuba gear to protect him from smoke inhalation.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Lisa Shumaker)