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Stella Nickell
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    (August 7, 1943- )
    Born in Colton, Oregon
    Birth name was Stella Stephenson
    Poisoned Excedrin capsules with cyanide, resulting in the deaths of her husband, Bruce Nickell (June 5, 1986), and Susan Snow (June 11, 1986)
    Convicted on five federal charges of product tampering (May 9, 1988)
    Sentenced to 90 years in prison
    She served six months in jail after being convicted of fraud (1968).
    She was ordered into counseling after being charged with beating her daughter Cynthia with a curtain rod (1969).
    She complained that her husband became boring after going to rehab and quitting drinking.
    She took out $76,000 in insurance policies on her husband, and forged his signature on at least two of the policies.
    The coroner initially ruled emphysema to be the cause of her husband’s death, so she could have gotten away with it, but she wanted to collect the extra $100,000 that his insurance would pay out for an accidental death.
    Investigators were suspicious that she insisted her husband’s death was not natural even before the news reported Susan Snow’s death by poisoned Excedrin.
    She attracted even more suspicion when investigators found two bottles with tainted Excedrin in her home and she told them she had bought them at different stores on different days. (Given that only five tampered with bottles turned up among the 740,000 that were screened, the odds of buying two tainted containers independently were astronomical.)
    Green crystals mixed with the cyanide used to poison the Excedrin were found to be an algaecide used in home aquariums and sold under the name Algae Destroyer.
    She denied ever buying Algae Destroyer to police, but the manager of the local pet store testified that she bought so much that he had to place special orders for her.
    Investigators found she had checked out the book ‘Human Poisoning’ from the local library and never returned it.
    She failed an FBI polygraph test about the poisonings.
    Her daughter Cynthia testified that she had talked about killing her husband for years.
    She favored skin-tight dresses for court attire.
    She insists that her daughter lied to collect part of the $300,000 reward that a group of drug manufacturers offered for the capture of the poisoner. (Cynthia collected $250,000 of the reward.)
    The killings resulted in drug companies abandoning two-piece capsules in favor of one-piece caplets to make tampering more difficult.

Credit: C. Fishel

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