Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
UTAH STATE PRISON — Cunning. Manipulative. Callous.
That is how Uintah County prosecutor John Gothard described Selena Irene York in his letter to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
"How does that strike you to hear someone say that about you?" board member Robert Yeates asked York. "Is that a fair description?"
"I'm a different person than I was back then," she replied last month during her first parole hearing. "I am really struggling with even associating myself with it. It seems very surreal to me."
York was sentenced to up to five years prison for serving her elderly landlord a peach smoothie spiked with antifreeze in what prosecutors said was an attempt to kill him so she could collect on several life insurance policies. She also received prison sentences for forging her name onto those life insurance policies and stealing $12,000 from her landlord's checking account.
On Tuesday, the parole board denied York's first chance for an early release. It cited the "extreme cruelty or depravity" of the crime, the personal gain York received as a result of her conduct, and the premeditation of the offense among its reasons for the denial.
York 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 Ed Zurbuchen, the man who had taken York and her two children in when they had no place to live.
Zurbuchen, who was 76 years old at the time, had to be hospitalized after experiencing symptoms that initially led doctors to believe they were treating a stroke patient, investigators said. He continues to suffer health problems, and fears that he might not survive a trial led prosecutors to offer York a plea bargain, according to Gothard's letter to the parole board.
Although York was initially suspected in the attack on Zurbuchen, detectives were unable to move forward with the case until early 2011. That's when York's on-again, off-again boyfriend told police that she had bragged about the incident.
The man 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.
Last 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 in the Oregon case to probation and ordered to pay $56,000 in restitution.
She is not scheduled to appear before the Utah parole board again until January 2015.
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