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Pa. woman sentenced for poisoning husband

February 16, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An Orrstown, Pa., woman who pleaded guilty to twice poisoning her husband by mixing antifreeze in his iced tea was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Court here to 14 to 60 years in state prison.

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Linda Turner Reasner, 56, of 12688 Cumberland Highway, was sentenced by Judge Richard J. Walsh to serve from four to 20 years for aggravated assault and 10 to 40 years for attempted homicide.

She had pleaded guilty to the charges Aug. 27, 1999.

According to Pennsylvania State Police, Linda Reasner mixed the antifreeze into the iced tea of James Reasner, 55, in August 1997 and again in September 1998.

"She realized she would have been much better off financially if he wasn't alive," Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson said during the sentencing.

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Referring to a letter from James Reasner included in the pre-sentence report, Nelson said he believed his wife tried to kill him to collect on life insurance policies.

"To do this once is horrendous. ... To do it a second time is unspeakable," Nelson said.

James Reasner was hospitalized for kidney failure after each poisoning.

After the sentencing Reasner said he and his family suspected he had been poisoned after the first incident, but Pennsylvania State Police told them there was insufficient evidence to prosecute his wife.

"The second time I was in a coma four or five days," he said.

He underwent kidney dialysis after each incident. His doctor contacted police after the second poisoning.

Linda Reasner's sentencing was delayed several times while a psychiatric evaluation was being completed. The evaluation concluded she had moderate depression, Nelson said.

"I know dozens of people who live normal lives" despite depression, Nelson said. "To me it's not a mitigating factor."

Nelson noted a "continual pattern of deception" by Linda Reasner in her statements to police. "She told police she poisoned him intentionally, but only wanted to make him sick," he told Walsh.

Linda Reasner later told police the poisoning was accidental and she meant to poison herself so her husband would pay more attention to her, he said. In another statement to police, she said she meant to kill herself, Nelson said.

"These are not the sort of factors that excuse what happened here," Public Defender Robert J. Trambley said.

He agreed Linda Reasner had a problem of "pathological lying," but said it was her way of dealing with her problems.

"If I had gotten help before, it wouldn't have happened. ... I'm very sorry it did," Linda Reasner told Walsh.

"Though you do have some significant problems ... it doesn't change the fact that I feel it's more important to impose punishment than rehabilitation," Walsh told her.

In addition to the prison sentence, he ordered her to pay restitution of $4,954 to James Reasner and $95,462 to his insurance company for medical expenses.

"I'm glad it's over and I'm glad she got what she got," said Kevin L. Reasner, who was among several of James Reasner's relatives attending the sentencing hearing.

James and Linda Reasner married in 1985. It was her third marriage, according to court records. He said they are still married.

"I (couldn't) go through with the divorce until after she's sentenced," he said.

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