A federal court jury deliberated five hours without reaching a verdict in the trial of Stella Nickell, the first person tried on charges of consumer product tampering that resulted in death.
The jury of seven women and five men, which is not sequestered, completed its first day of deliberations Tuesday and was to resume discussions Wednesday.Nickell, 44, is accused of killing her husband, Bruce, 52, with cyanide-laced Extra-Strength Excedrin on June 6, 1986, because she was unhappy in her marriage and wanted to collect $176,000 in life insurance benefits.
The government alleged she also planted poisoned Excedrin and Maximum Strength Anacin III capsules on store shelves in the Auburn, Wash., area, resulting in the death on June 11, 1986, of Sue Snow, 40, who prosecutors say was an innocent victim of "someone who didn't care who it was."
Nickell faces up to life in prison on the two counts involving death and up to 10 years on three additional counts of product-tampering, a law inspired by the unsolved Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in the Chicago area in 1982. She does not face the death penalty. State prosecutors were awaiting the outcome of the federal trial before deciding whether to file murder charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanne Maida said in her final argument Monday that Nickell's greed prompted her to put the other poisoned capsules on store shelves despite having already committed what she called an "otherwise flawless crime" the slaying of her husband.