Twenty years after a Kansas woman died from nicotine poisoning, her husband has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for her murder. The sentence, handed down on Friday, came after a jury found that he had fatally poisoned his wife in order to collect a $500,000 life insurance payout.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office released a statement confirming that Paul Marshal Curry, 58, was found guilty in September of felony murder with the special circumstance of killing for financial gain. In addition, he received a sentencing enhancement for murdering his wife, Linda, by poisoning.
Paul and Linda Curry had been married for two years when, according to prosecutors, he tricked his wife into ingesting a sedative and then administered a lethal amount of nicotine to Linda on June 9, 1994. Prosecutors believe that Paul had slowly been poisoning Linda during the last year of her life. After giving his wife the poison, Paul called 911 to report that his wife, who was in bed, had stopped breathing. Upon their arrival, emergency personnel from Orange County rushed Linda to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead just hours later.
Linda Curry was not a smoker, and had life insurance policies totaling over $500,000 at the time of her death, which were paid out to Paul Curry, who had begun the process of claiming the benefits just one day after Linda’s funeral. Prosecutors say that all told, Paul collected $547,000 from the death of his wife. Authorities suspected that Paul had murdered Linda with poison, but without evidence, they could not charge him with the crime and the case went cold.
According to the press release, investigators took a fresh look at the case in 2007. New evidence was uncovered which reduced the amount of time it would have taken for Paul Curry to inject the nicotine, at which time he was arrested in Kansas where he had relocated in March 2010 after having been hired by the city of Salina. He had previously been living in North Las Vegas, where he worked as a senior plans examiner for the city. He had also worked as an engineer in a nuclear power plant, which is where he and Linda Curry met.
A former wife of Paul Curry’s was called to testify in his murder trial. She recalled that in the year which would end up being their last together as husband and wife, she was frequently ill, and Paul suggested that both of them should apply for life insurance. The ex-wife was denied coverage, at which time she and Paul split up. After the separation, her recurring health issues went away.
Lisa Kopelman, lawyer for Paul Curry, defended her client against charges that he murdered his wife by introducing evidence that Linda Curry suffered from digestive issues and was often ill. As such, Kopelman argued that Linda may have ingested nicotine purposefully in order to treat her irritable bowel syndrome.
One year prior to her death, Linda Curry was hospitalized after suffering from headaches, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Hospital workers found that Linda’s IV bag contained lidocaine and questioned the couple. At the time, Paul told officials he would gain nothing from his wife’s death.
During Friday’s sentencing, in which Paul Curry showed no hint of emotion, friends and family gave victim impact statements in court. One friend of Linda Curry’s spoke of the pain she had felt every one “of those 7,459 days “since she had been murdered, saying that her grief was due in part to the fact that Paul, who had “professsed to love her and took vows to protect her, murdered her.”
By Jennifer Pfalz