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Woman’s Death Laid to Same Batch of Cyanide Used to Kill Grandmother

Times Staff Writer

A Costa Mesa woman committed suicide last December by drinking a cyanide potion from the same batch that her father had used to poison his mother 7 years ago, authorities said Tuesday.

The body of Roxene Jacobs, 37, was discovered in the bedroom of her Avocado Street apartment Dec. 7. Police found a drinking glass with a spoon and crystallized potassium cyanide in the bottom. No suicide note was found.

Costa Mesa Police Detective Steve Labbitt said Tuesday that police had evidence at the time of Jacobs’ death showing that she may have consumed cyanide but had waited for a toxicology report to confirm the evidence.

Labbitt said Jacobs was despondent because her ex-husband had won custody of their daughter, and she was 8 months behind in her child-support payments.

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Jacobs’ father, Herbert B. Baetz, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1982 for poisoning his 87-year-old mother, Janette Baetz. At his trial, Herbert Baetz testified that he had mixed a potion of potassium cyanide and orange juice and given it to his mother at her request. Prosecutors argued that he had murdered her.

The jury found Baetz guilty and he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Labbitt said that Baetz, who was a chemist and gold prospector, had purchased a number of bottles of cyanide in 1980, and the poison that killed Janette Baetz and Jacobs “came from the same lot number,” Labbitt said.

The Jacobs case was the second cyanide-related death reported in Orange County in recent weeks. On Feb. 23, more than a year after Capistrano Unified School District trustee Jan Overton had died, the coroner’s office said her death was caused by cyanide poisoning. Overton’s death, attributed at first to natural causes, is still under investigation.

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Overton and Jacobs knew each other, but there is no link between their deaths, Labbitt said. Jacobs had worked for the Orange County Department of Education from November, 1982, to October, 1988, a time during which Overton was a Capistrano school trustee.


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