SAN DIEGO – A woman was convicted Tuesday of murdering her Marine husband with arsenic so she could cash in on his $250,000 life insurance policy, some of which she used to have her breasts enlarged.
Prosecutors argued that Cynthia Sommer, 33, wanted a more luxurious lifestyle than she could afford on her 23-year-old husband's $1,700 monthly salary and saw his military life insurance policy as a way to "set herself free."
In addition to the breast enlargement surgery, Sommer's friends and co-workers testified, she threw wild parties and had casual sex with multiple partners in the weeks after her husband's death and the payment of the insurance policy.
Sgt. Todd Sommer was in top condition when he collapsed and died on Feb. 18, 2002, at the couple's home on the Marine Corps' Miramar base in San Diego.
His death was initially ruled a heart attack. Tests of his liver later found levels of arsenic 1,020 times above normal.
Cynthia Sommer, who was arrested in December 2005, swallowed and stared as the verdict was read, while her mother burst into tears. She faces an automatic life sentence. Formal sentencing was set for March 23.
"I'm deeply disappointed," defense attorney Robert Udell said after the verdict. "I don't believe Cindy killed Todd."
With no direct evidence that Sommer was the source of the arsenic, Deputy District Attorney Laura Gunn relied heavily on circumstantial evidence of Sommer's debts to show that she had a motive to kill her husband.
Gunn asserted that the defendant was the only person with the motive and access to poison the Marine.
The Marine's relatives testified that she objected when they asked her to put her husband's $250,000 death benefit in trust for herself, their baby and her three children from a previous marriage. However, she later put a little more than half of the benefit into a trust.
She is now engaged to a former Marine she met two months after her husband's death. She was extradited to California last March from her new home in West Palm Beach, Fla.