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Family Seeks Answers After Cyanide Death

March 8, 2006

WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio (AP) _ Dr. Yazeed Essa was welcomed into his wife’s large family and fit right in, always eager to help wash dishes after meals or to examine a sick niece or nephew late at night.

But Rosemarie Essa’s family members now believe they were fooled by the doctor, a fugitive charged last month with aggravated murder nearly a year after she died from cyanide poisoning.

``It’s almost like he had two lives,″ said her brother, Rocco DiPuccio.

Prosecutors have said they believe Yazeed ``Yaz″ Essa, 37, an emergency room doctor, was having an affair with a nurse and wanted to be free of his 38-year-old wife.

He disappeared three weeks after his wife’s death and remains missing. Authorities believe he has been in Syria, Greece and Lebanon and possibly visited Florida. His family owns property in the Palestinian territories, authorities said.

His lawyer, Larry Zukerman, declined comment. The attorney said last month that he had had no contact with his client since his disappearance and that he is presumed innocent under the law.

Rosemarie ``Rosie″ Essa collapsed behind the wheel of her car and crashed into an oncoming car on Feb. 24, 2005. Prosecutors say she had called her friend from a cell phone, gasping for air, and said her husband made her take calcium pills and she didn’t feel well.

Even after Yazeed Essa vanished, some of his wife’s relatives say they still gave him the benefit of the doubt.

``None of us wanted to believe it as it unfolded,″ said her brother Dominic DiPuccio. ``We all crossed the line at different times. There was tension and arguments and there was stress.″

Dominic DiPuccio and his wife, Julie, took custody of his sister’s two children, who were 4 and 2 when their father disappeared last March, and put a freeze on the family’s assets.

The couple’s children now easily refer to their cousins as their brother and sister.

``Mommy’s in heaven. Daddy’s lost,″ is what the children say about their parents.

The DiPuccios believe that Yazeed Essa will be found someday and that he will be brought to trial. If convicted of aggravated murder, he could be sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Rosie Essa’s relatives say they don’t want revenge, only closure and the chance to properly grieve.

``We were all fooled by Yaz and that includes Rosie,″ said her brother Rocco DiPuccio.

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