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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

County Isn’t Liable For Student Toxicologist Poisoning Her Husband

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A California appeals court reversed a jury's damage award against San Diego County after a student toxicologist murdered her husband with toxic materials she stole from the medical examiner's office.

Kristin Rossum's husband, Greg de Villers, threatened to expose the affair she was having with her supervisor at the examiner's office and her drug relapse. Four days later, she called 911 to report that Greg had not been feeling well and had suddenly stopped breathing. Paramedics found his needle-marked body on the floor, strewn with "fresh-looking" rose petals.

An autopsy revealed that he had died of acute fentanyl intoxication and had traces of oxycodone and clonazepam in his system. Fifteen fentanyl patches and a vial of pure fentanyl had been stolen from the office, along with impounded envelopes of meth and cocaine. Rossum was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The victim's family filed a wrongful death claim accusing the county of direct and vicarious liability for negligently hiring Rossum and failing to perform a background check that would have revealed her history of drug addiction. But the appeals court found no cases to support a direct claim against a governmental entity for negligent hiring and supervision, or a mandatory duty to prevent employees from embezzling drugs to commit murder. See ruling in de Villers v. San Diego County.

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