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Woman accused of poisoning landlord with smoothie pleads guilty to theft, fraud

Published: Friday, Sept. 16 2011 3:16 p.m. MDT

VERNAL —  A former Utah resident accused of trying to poison her landlord with an antifreeze-tainted peach smoothie has pleaded guilty to theft and identity fraud charges in Oregon.

Selena Irene York, 33, pleaded guilty earlier this month to three counts of theft, two counts of identity theft and one count of perjury, according to Lane County deputy district attorney Bill Warnisher. She was sentenced Wednesday to probation, Warnisher said, but remains in custody on a fugitive hold from Utah.

Authorities in Oregon alleged that York assumed the identity of her former boyfriend, Joseph Dominic Ferraro, while he was in jail, cleaned out his bank accounts and sold two of his vehicles.

Ferraro, who was convicted of sex abuse charges in Oregon and sentenced to prison, sent a letter to police in Utah informing them that York told him she'd tried to kill her landlord while living there in 2008.

In his letter, Ferraro alleged that York had concocted a plan when she was living in Vernal to put her name on all of Ed Zurbuchen's financial and insurance accounts and obtain power of attorney over the remainder of his property, according to court documents. York also discussed her intent to kill Zurbuchen, Ferraro told investigators.

Police say, in late 2008, York purchased three peach smoothies from a coffee stand in Vernal and then drove to a gas station, where she purchased a gallon of antifreeze. She returned to the home she shared with Zurbuchen, had her then-13-year-old daughter pour out half of one of the smoothies, and then topped off the cup with antifreeze, court records state.

Ferraro wrote that once the drink had been mixed, York told her daughter to thoroughly clean the kitchen and dispose of the remaining antifreeze. While her daughter was cleaning up at home, Ferraro said York delivered the poisoned smoothie to Zurbuchen.

“Mr. Ferraro writes that (York) called him upon completing the task, very pleased with herself,” court records state. Vernal police said Ferraro also provided them with an email he’d received from York’s daughter that read: “... I hope mom doesn’t poison you with antifreeze lol.”

Zurbuchen was taken to Ashley Regional Medical Center, where doctors initially believed they were treating someone who had suffered a stroke. They later determined that the nearly 80-year-old man had been poisoned.

Zurbuchen recovered from the alleged attempt on his life. He refused to believe the York had poisoned him, police said, but sought a restraining order against her in February 2009. York and her teenage daughter relocated to Oregon, where they moved in with Ferraro.

York is expected to be returned to Utah within the next two weeks. She is charged in 8th District Court with attempted murder, a second-degree felony. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

E-mail: geoff@ubstandard.com Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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