Greed Motivated Man to Poison His Wife With Nicotine, Prosecutor Says

PHOTO: Paul Curry was convicted of murder, Sept. 30, 2014, in the 1994 death of his wife Linda.PlayABC News
WATCH Poison Murder Trial Begins 20 Years Later

Greed drove Paul Curry to poison his wife in 1994, prosecutors alleged in court Tuesday, the first day of a cold case-turned murder trial in California.

Curry could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted in the death of Linda Curry, who was 50 when she died.

Curry, 57, poisoned his wife with nicotine in order to collect more than $500,000 in insurance money and other benefits, prosecutors say.

“This man took Linda Curry for a paycheck,” prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh said in court Tuesday.

“The man sitting at the end of counsel table was greedy, wanted money. And for that, he killed his wife.”

Husband on Trial 20 Years After Wife's Poisoning Death

They were married for 21 months when Linda died mysteriously in their Orange County home. She was a nonsmoker, but tests revealed fatal levels of nicotine in her system.

It's unclear how prosecutors believe he administered the nicotine.

But prosecutors say it took years of tests before they could connect Paul Curry to his former wife’s death. By then he’d moved on, living in Kansas, remarried and working at a government job.

He was arrested in 2010.

Curry has pleaded not guilty to his former wife’s slaying. His defense attorney, Lisa Kopelman, told jurors Tuesday that Linda Curry had battled gastrointestinal problems for years, years before the couple married, and she might have used nicotine as an experimental medicine to treat her mystery illness.

“She was very, very desperate to find a cure,” Kopelman said. “You’re going to have to find my client ‘not guilty.’”

But Curry himself wasn’t so confident, at least not in a recording prosecutors played for jurors Tuesday, featuring his calling his new wife from jail after his arrest.

“If I go there and go to trial, they laid out a bunch of stuff. I gotta tell you, it looks bad,” he said in the recording.