Dennis Auerswald’s life insurance inquiries presented in trial — (Medina-Gazette)

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The Medina-Gazette

by Maria Kacik Kula

Filed on March 4, 2011

MEDINA — The jury in the Dennis Auerswald murder trial listened Thursday to the recording of a brief phone call Auerswald made to a life insurance company the day after his wife died.

“I’m calling about the policy that I have on my wife, Maureen,” he said to the customer service representative on Feb. 11, 2009. Maureen Auerswald, 60, died from antifreeze poisoning at 4:16 a.m. Feb. 10.

The representative looked up the policy number and told him the policy expired in 2007.

“It lapsed?… I thought we still had an active policy with you guys on her, but I may have switched it over to AARP,” he said.

It wasn’t clear from the call how much the policy was worth, but Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman said during opening statements earlier this week that Maureen Auerswald had $60,000 in life insurance that had lapsed and that Dennis Auerswald tried to collect.

Prosecutors also played part of a March 16, 2010, phone call to the same company. After taking care of some other business with the company —which was not played in court — Auerswald asked about his wife’s policies.

“Are there any benefits that can be paid?” he asked the customer service representative, who replied there were none.

Maureen Auerswald did have one valid life insurance policy, which was taken out in 2008 for $100,000. The American General Life Insurance Co. filed a civil suit in July, asking whether it could deposit the money with the Medina County Clerk of Courts for now. It said Auerswald’s murder charge meant conflicting benefits claims. The case is pending.

Dennis Auerswald reported to authorities that he found his wife unresponsive and lying on the floor of their home next to a bottle of vodka on Feb. 9, 2009. She was taken to Medina Hospital and transported by emergency helicopter to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where she died early the next morning.

An autopsy revealed she died from acute intoxication of ethylene glycol — the main ingredient in antifreeze.

Auerswald was charged with murder and aggravated murder last June and pleaded not guilty the next month. His defense has maintained there is no evidence that actually links him to the antifreeze and the only evidence prosecutors have is meant to damage Dennis Auerswald’s character.

Testimony in the trial continued Thursday. Maureen Auerswald’s primary care physician Dr. Ann Marie Stuart said she prescribed Maureen antidepressants, but never considered her to be severely depressed or suicidal.

An emergency room doctor who worked on Maureen Auerswald said he was never told she had ingested antifreeze. Dr. David Effron said if he had known, he would have pursued a different course of treatment.

He said the sooner the treatment starts, “the more likely (patients) are to survive.”

Laura Angers, an intensive care unit nurse at MetroHealth, said Dennis Auerswald told her several times how he found his wife lying next to the bottle of alcohol. However, Angers said she overheard Auerswald tell a doctor shortly before his wife died that she had talked about drinking antifreeze in order to kill herself.

Angers also said Auerswald remained calm while doctors worked to save his wife. She said he only became upset around the time Maureen’s heart rate began to crash and doctors pushed him out of the way.

“He didn’t want us to be doing any more. He didn’t want her to be suffering any more. He wanted to let her go,” she said.

She said doctors told Auerswald they could start dialysis to try to save his wife, but there was only a small chance she would live. He said his wife had a “Do Not Resuscitate” order and they shouldn’t pursue the treatment, Angers said.

“After that, the only thing we could do was make her comfortable,” she said.