O.C. Woman Gets Big Reward in Mom’s Conviction

From Associated Press

A $250,000 reward will be paid to a Garden Grove woman whose testimony helped convict her mother in two killings with cyanide-laced Excedrin, a spokesman for a pharmaceutical group said Friday.

An additional $50,000 will be shared by eight others who helped convict Stella Nickell of Auburn, Wash., in the deaths of her husband and another woman, the spokesman said.

The Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Assn. had offered the rewards for information leading to an arrest in the June, 1986, killings, which led to the nation’s first trial in a product-tampering death.


Cynthia Hamilton, 30, the Nickells’ daughter who now lives in Garden Grove, testified that her mother repeatedly talked about ways to kill her husband, Bruce Nickell, who was 52 when he died.

Prosecutors said Stella Nickell put cyanide in capsules of Extra-Strength Excedrin and gave them to her husband. She also planted other bottles of cyanide-tainted Excedrin in local stores to divert suspicion, authorities said.

Stella Nickell had three life insurance policies on her husband. The other victim was Susan Katherine Snow, 40, also of Auburn, who authorities said had bought the poisoned capsules.

The deaths sparked a nationwide tampering scare and prompted Excedrin manufacturer Bristol-Myers Co. to recall its over-the-counter capsule medications.

Stella Nickell was convicted two years later.

The reward is the second paid by the pharmaceutical group. Another $300,000 was shared by nine people who helped police arrest a Florida man in 1986. Authorities alleged he put rat poison in capsules of several SmithKline Beckman Corp. products in Florida and Texas in a failed scheme to manipulate the price of SmithKline stock.

“We offered the rewards as a deterrent because we feel that the best way to deter tampering is to catch the tamperers,” said John T. Walden, a senior vice president of the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Assn.


Rewards authorized for two other drug-tampering cases remain unpaid.

The association authorized a $200,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the 1986 death of Diane Elsroth of Yonkers, N.Y., who took cyanide-laced Tylenol, he said.

The same amount is offered in the 1982 Chicago-area deaths of seven people, who also were killed with tainted Tylenol capsules, he said.

The eight who will also share in the reward in the Nickell case are: Thomas Noonan of Auburn, Wash., $15,000; Bonnie Anderson of Federal Way, Wash., $10,000; Denise Button of Seattle, $7,500; Sandra Scott of Auburn, $7,500; Katy Parker of Auburn, $2,500; Gerald McIntyre of Kent, Wash., $2,500; Lynn Force, of Seattle, $2,500; and Melinda Denton, also of Seattle, $2,500.