'Fatal Attraction' Case Set to Go To Jury This Week
Apr. 14, 1991
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ The lawyer for the teacher accused of killing her lover's wife assailed the philandering husband and presented two witnesses who helped support the frame- up theory he offered in her defense.
Beginning this week, jurors will decide whether attorney David Lewis instilled any doubt about the prosecution's murder case against Carolyn Warmus.
On Monday, both sides' summations are scheduled in the case that's entirely circumstantial - no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence like fingerprints link her to the crime scene.
The daughter of a wealthy Michigan insurance executive, Warmus met Paul Solomon at an elementary school in Westchester County, north of New York City, in 1987. She had just been hired as a teacher and Solomon, also a teacher, befriended her. Soon they were having an affair.
Prosecutors say Warmus, 27, fired nine shots at Betty Jeanne Solomon, 40, in the Solomons' Greenburgh home at 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 15, 1989. Her motivation: her obsession with Solomon and her desire to have him all to herself. The prosecution theory gave rise to comparisons with the film ''Fatal Attraction,'' in which a woman becomes obsessed with a married man with whom she had an affair.
The defense maintains that Vincent Parco, the private investigator who said he sold Warmus a gun, framed her and that Solomon was involved in the crime. The murder weapon was never recovered.
Lewis approached Solomon as a cheater and liar, not as the reluctant object of Warmus' attention.
After five days of Lewis' questioning, Solomon - who admitted he had two previous affairs and regularly lied to his wife - exploded in anger at the lawyer's suggestion that he was involved in the killing.
''I'll accept my guilt for the affair,'' he said of his 18-month relationship with Warmus. ''But I only hope that when I'm punished and judged, that you are punished and judged for what you've done here.''
Lewis shot back: ''As you know, sir, there is no court of law that will punish or judge you, because you made an agreement that you are immune.''
Solomon was granted immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony. He also has a $120,000 deal if a movie is made based on the case.
When Parco was on the witness stand, Lewis pounded away at his business dealings. The private eye's testimony was crucial to the prosecution because he was the only witness up to that point who testified that Warmus had a gun. He testified that he sold her a silencer-equipped gun for $2,500.
Lewis made it seem as if Parco were on trial. At one point, Lewis dwelled on the fact that Parco had considered hiring a small army to retake a shrimp farm on an island off of Ecuador that had been seized from its owner by some bandits.
But then one of the the lowest moments for the defense followed. A nurse from an elementary school testified that Warmus had told her in January 1989 that she had bought a gun from a private investigator to protect herself. Here was a witness corroborating Parco after Lewis had spent a week portraying him as a master of deceit.
Lewis, however, had a surprise of his own.
In the trial's 10th week, he presented a document that he said was Warmus' phone bill.
It showed a call had been placed from her Manhattan apartment to her mother's home in Michigan at 6:44 p.m. on Jan. 15, 1989, making it impossible, he said, for her to drive to Westchester in time to kill Mrs. Solomon.
But the bill conflicted with what was possibly the prosecution's most important piece of evidence - an MCI telephone record that shows no Michigan call but does show a call from Warmus' apartment to a New Jersey gun shop on the day of the murder.
The prosecution said Warmus called the gun shop, then drove there and bought ammunition with a stolen driver's license before going to kill Mrs. Solomon.
A two-week tug of war ensued between the prosecution and defense over whose document was real and whose was a forgery. Warmus' fate may hinge on which one the jury concludes is authentic. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
After 11 weeks of prosecution testimony, Lewis called only nine witnesses and wrapped up his case in 2 1/2 days.
One was a trucker with a criminal record who testified that Parco asked him to commit a murder - a request he turned down.
Another was a man who admitted seeking payment from Warmus' millionaire father so he could relocate after testifying. He said that the night of the murder, as he sat in a bathroom stall at a bowling alley, he overheard Parco and Solomon exchanging $20,000 and talking about tossing a gun into the river.