Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
VERNAL — She stole more than $10,000 from her landlord's bank account, forged her name onto his life insurance policy as a beneficiary, and then tried to kill him with a peach smoothie spiked with antifreeze.
But as she stood before 8th District Court Judge Clark McClellan for sentencing Tuesday, Selena Irene York wanted to make one thing clear.
"I'm not a bad person," she said in a quiet voice.
"People make mistakes," York continued. "This isn't who I am."
McClellan, however, didn't believe it. He sentenced York to serve three terms of zero to 5 years in prison, then ordered those sentences to run consecutively.
"(You) have in my mind, earned a prison sentence," the judge said. "You intended to kill him. You anticipated that and hoped to profit from it.
York, 34, was initially charged with attempted murder, a second-degree felony, but pleaded to a lesser charge of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony. Uintah County prosecutors also charged York with multiple counts of forgery, theft, and unlawful use of a financial card. She was allowed to plead to one count of forgery and one count of theft, both third-degree felonies, as part of a plea bargain.
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 in early 2011 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.
During Thursday's hearing, Zurbuchen praised York's former boyfriend for coming forward. The whole situation, the Korean War vet said, still baffles him.
"I cannot believe that Selena and her 13-year-old daughter were living upstairs from me, plotting to kill me, after I supported them for a year and a half," Zurbuchen said. "This has been a difficult, painful and confusing thing to me."
The attempt on his life has left Zurbuchen with lingering medical problems. He has evaluations scheduled to have his kidneys and liver tested.
Yet despite all that has happened, Zurbuchen said he hasn't given up his belief that "there is good in every person" or his desire to help those in need.
"I will always extend my hand," he told the Deseret News after court. "I'm a Christian."
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