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Guilty plea resolves poison peach smoothie case

Published: Friday, Dec. 23 2011 10:46 a.m. MST

Selena York, also known as Selena Elderkin, stands with defense attorney Michael Humiston during a hearing Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in 8th District Court in Vernal. York pleaded guilty to reduced charges for her attempt to kill her landlord with an antifreeze-spiked peach smoothie, and for obtaining control over the man's finances and stealing about $10,000 from him.

Mary Bernard,

VERNAL — The bizarre case of a woman accused of trying to kill her landlord with an antifreeze-spiked peach smoothie has ended with a plea agreement.

Selena Irene York, 34, entered an Alford plea Thursday in 8th District Court to one count each of aggravated assault, forgery and theft. The charges are all third-degree felonies.

Under an Alford plea a defendant does not admit to the offense they are charged with, but acknowledges that prosecutors have sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. An Alford plea is treated the same as a guilty plea for purposes of sentencing.

In exchange for York's plea, Uintah County prosecutors agreed to reduce an attempted murder charge to an aggravated assault charge. They also asked a judge to dismiss 18 other financial crimes against York, and agreed not to pursue charges against York's teenage daughter in juvenile court.

York, who also uses the name Selena Elderkin, bought a peach smoothie in September 2008, poured half of it out and then topped the cup off with antifreeze, according to Vernal police. She served the tainted drink to 79-year-old Ed Zurbuchen, who was hospitalized with symptoms that initially led doctors to believe they were treating a stroke patient, investigators said.

The case stalled until York's on-again, off-again boyfriend told police earlier this year that she had bragged about the incident. He also said York had involved her then-13-year-old daughter in the scheme, and that the girl sent him an email afterward that said, "I hope mom doesn't poison you with antifreeze lol.”

The man who contacted Vernal police was awaiting sentencing in Oregon on child sex abuse charges. He claimed York had taken control of his finances while he was in jail, drained his bank accounts and sold two of his cars.

In September, York pleaded guilty in an Oregon courtroom to three counts of theft, two counts of identity theft and one count of perjury. The charges were related to the jailed man's claims.

York was sentenced to probation in the Oregon case and extradited to Utah.

Uintah County prosecutors said York assumed control of Zurbuchen's finances as well when she was living with him, and stole nearly $10,000 from his checking account.

York remains in the Uintah County Jail, where she is being held without bail. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 14.

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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