HOUSTON (AP) — A cancer researcher in Texas was convicted Friday of aggravated assault for poisoning her colleague, who was also her lover, by lacing his coffee with a sweet-tasting chemical found in antifreeze.
Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, 43, a breast cancer doctor based at Houston's famed Texas Medical Center, had been involved in a sexual relationship with her fellow researcher, Dr. George Blumenschein.
Prosecutors told jurors that Gonzalez-Angulo was a devious and diabolical person who became obsessed with Blumenschein. They said the affair turned into a "fatal attraction" and she poisoned him with ethylene glycol after Blumenschein spurned her in favor of Evette Toney, his live-in girlfriend of 10 years with whom he was trying to start a family.
Jurors deliberated for about four hours over two days before reaching their verdict. Gonzalez-Angulo had no visible reaction after the verdict was read.
Blumenschein told jurors that he became sick Jan. 27, 2013, not long after he and Gonzalez-Angulo had been intimate, and that he immediately suspected his lover of spiking his coffee. Witnesses testified that Gonzalez-Angulo had access to ethylene glycol at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where she and Blumenschein worked.
Gonzalez-Angulo's attorneys argued that other people, including Toney, might have been responsible for the poisoning, an allegation that Toney has denied. Toney says she and Blumenschein are working on their relationship.
The defense team also noted a prosecution expert's testimony that Blumenschein could have ingested the poison two days earlier.
The trial, which began Sept. 15, was filled with plot twists straight out of a soap opera, including prosecutors' claims that Gonzalez-Angulo lied about being attacked outside her home in an effort to get Blumenschein to leave his girlfriend. Prosecutors also said Blumenschein secretly recorded calls in which he tried to get Gonzalez-Angulo to confess to poisoning him.
Blumenschein said he delayed reporting his suspicions to authorities for fear that Gonzalez-Angulo would try to hurt him or Toney.
He told jurors he now has only about 40 percent of his kidney function.
The trial's punishment phase began after the verdict was read and concluded later Friday after both sides presented witnesses.
Blumenschein told jurors Friday afternoon he was grateful for their verdict and "that justice was served."
He said he still fears for his safety and that of his girlfriend as Gonzalez-Angulo had told him before the poisoning that she "had people executed in Colombia," where Gonzalez-Angulo was born. Defense attorneys suggested this claim was outlandish.
Gonzalez-Angulo's attorneys presented nine witnesses, including colleagues, former patients and her father, who told jurors she was a caring and compassionate person who cares deeply about her patients.
They asked jurors to sentence Gonzalez-Angulo to probation. She faces up to life in prison.
"She's always given me the hope I could get through this," Silvia Lieber, one of Gonzalez-Angulo's former patients, tearfully testified.
Closing arguments in the punishment phase were set for Monday.
Gonzalez-Angulo, who had been free on bond, was taken into custody Friday after the conviction.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70.