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Daughter Didn’t Kill Husband, Father Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The father of a San Diego County toxicologist accused of poisoning her husband defended his daughter Thursday as an academic, a dog lover and an avid reader who had no reason to kill.

Ralph Rossum offered a different image of his daughter, Kristin Rossum, from the one prosecutors painted of a drug addict who plotted to poison her husband to keep him from revealing her drug use and an affair.

Kristin Rossum was arrested Monday after an eight-month investigation and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday. San Diego County prosectors have charged her with the murder of Gregory de Villers by poison under special circumstances, charges that could lead to the death penalty.

De Villers died from an overdose of a painkiller on Nov. 6, prosecutors said. The painkiller was stolen from the county medical examiner’s office where Kristin Rossum worked, they said.

Ralph Rossum, a prominent constitutional scholar at Claremont McKenna College, said Thursday that stories about his daughter were misleading, at times false, and he promised that a different picture of his daughter would emerge.

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“We were astonished at how many factual matters are wrong,” he said.

Rossum said his daughter had used methamphetamines in high school but not since. He disputed prosecutors’ allegations that she was still using the drug and was fired for stealing it from the office storeroom.

“She had put that behind her, but it was something that always haunted her,” Rossum said.

He described his daughter as an accomplished woman who won top academic honors. The 24-year-old had graduated summa cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at San Diego State University.

The Rossums had known for months that San Diego police were still investigating de Villers’ death.

“It just seemed fanciful that anything would come of it. It struck us always as absurd . . . that a bright toxicologist would do something that would incriminate her,” Rossum said, his voice tight. “I know from the abject terror in her voice when she called that night to tell us that Greg had stopped breathing--I know that she is innocent.”

He accused prosecutors and police of trying his daughter in the media. Her attorney, Gretchen von Helms, said Thursday that she would counter some of the conclusions and stories publicized by prosecutors and police.

“They are trying to make it seem like this creepy Hollywood thing,” von Helms said. “She had no motive to kill him at all.”

The Rossums contend that de Villers committed suicide after learning Kristin Rossum was having an affair with her supervisor.

Prosecutors consider that supervisor, Michael Robertson, a suspect in de Villers’ death. He was fired at the same time Rossum was and has returned to his native Australia.

Ralph Rossum said that the week before Kristin found her husband dead she requested a trial separation.

Kristin Rossum is being held at the Las Colinas Detention Facility without bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned in San Diego County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m. Monday.


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