Plea of Not Guilty in Tainted-Drink Death — (The New York Times)

SSRI Ed note: Woman on "6 or 7 meds" stops taking her antidepressant, poisons her brother-in-law and he dies.

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The New York Times

July 13, 2004

Author: IVER PETERSON ; Janon Fisher and John Holl contributed reporting for this article.

Maryann Neabor pleads not guilty, Burlington County, NJ, superior court, to murder of her brother-in-law Jonathan Neabor, who died from drinking antifreeze mixed into fruit juice; Neabor gave him drink to make him sick enough for him to be dependent on her so she could get some of his money (M)

Maryann Neabor only wanted to make her brother-in-law sick enough for him to be dependent on her, so she could get some of his money, her defense lawyer said in court on Monday.

But on Friday, Jonathan Neabor died from drinking the antifreeze that his sister-in-law, Ms. Neabor, had mixed in a fruit drink she made for him, and that made it murder, said the Burlington County prosecutor. Ms. Neabor, a sometime emergency medical technician and visiting drug-abuse speaker at high schools, entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of premeditated murder at her first appearance in State Superior Court in Burlington County here on Monday, a court session that in New Jersey precedes a formal arraignment. Ms. Neabor did not look at Judge John A. Almeida and only nodded affirmatively when he asked if she had received a copy of the complaint and understood the charges.

The charges held that Ms. Neabor had told the police she had invited her husband’s brother over on Wednesday and served him a blender drink with several ounces of antifreeze added to the pineapple juice and bottled cherries. The brother-in-law became sick and was admitted to Virtua Memorial Hospital here on Thursday. Ms. Neabor went to visit. He died on Friday.

After the death, she called a lawyer, Craig R. Mitnick, and without telling her husband, Michael, and her two sons, Michael, 20, and Robert, 19, surrendered to a state trooper outside a diner early Sunday morning. “They did not know until I told them,” Mr. Mitnick said on Monday.

Mr. Mitnick, of Haddonfield, said the family had a long history of financial problems, even after declaring bankruptcy in 1999. He said Ms. Neabor’s intention had been to incapacitate her brother-in-law, a retired postal worker with no family of his own, enough to make him dependent on her care, and so to bring his pension and his savings under her control, he said.

“The motive was greed, as it is in all crimes,” Mr. Mitnick said after the brief court hearing. “There was no intent here, and that means that there was no murder here, it was negligent manslaughter,” he said. Mr. Mitnick also said that Jonathan Neabor had a life insurance policy naming his brother Michael as beneficiary. During the hearing, Mr. Mitnick told Judge Almeida that Ms. Neabor was diabetic and depressed, and required six or seven medications a day. He said that she had not taken her antidepression medicine for 20 or more days, and added afterward that her mental condition would form a part of her defense.

He requested that Ms. Neabor be transferred to a psychiatric hospital and put on suicide watch. But she was returned to Burlington County Jail in $500,000 bail and promised a psychiatric evaluation at some point.

For all Mr. Mitnick’s effort to present Ms. Neabor as a pitiable figure, Robert D. Bernardi, the county prosecutor, insisted when questioned that he would not agree to reducing the charges against her.

“You don’t have to intend to kill someone to qualify for murder,” he said. “Even if you gave someone a poisoned cocktail and didn’t even intend to kill them, most reasonable people would consider it murder if the person then dies.”

Anthony Henry, who lives across from the Neabors on Shawnee Trail in Shamong, said Ms. Neabor was always nice to him when he visited their son Robert, whom he knew from high school.

“There was never any problem there — that’s what the shock was,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been in their house, and they seemed like normal people.”
Caption: Photo: Maryann Neabor, charged with premeditated murder in her brother-in-law’s death, in State Superior Court in Mount Holly, N.J. (Photo by Associated Press)