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A Jailhouse Interview With Cynthia Sommer

Aired February 7, 2007 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We the jury in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Cynthia A. Sommer, guilty of the crime of murder.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, facing life in prison, she gives her first prime time jailhouse interview since she was convicted of murdering her Marine husband with poison to get his insurance money.

You've heard all the stories about her inappropriate grieving, sexual escapades, getting breast implants after her husband's death. But you haven't heard her side and all the questions about the case against her -- until now.

Cynthia Sommer speaks out from jail next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Thanks for joining us.

Before we meet Cynthia Sommer, let's bring you up to date on the crime and the sensational murder trial that landed her in a women's detention center near San Diego, facing life in prison.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Is he still conscious?


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Is he breathing?



KING: A chilling 911 call early February 18, 2002. Cynthia Sommer said her husband, 23-year-old Marine Sergeant Todd Sommer, had collapsed in their bedroom one month after passing his five year physical with flying colors. By 2:30 a.m. he was dead.

The autopsy revealed nothing. His cause of death listed as cardiac arrhythmia. His body was cremated except for organs and tissues Cynthia donated for donated for research.

A year later, military tests on those same organs found arsenic levels hundreds of times normal in Todd's kidneys and liver.

Last week, she was convicted despite questions about the custody of her husband's organs and prosecutors admitting they knew going in that the case was circumstantial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We the jury in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Cynthia A. Sommer, guilty of the crime of murder.


KING: We asked the prosecutors to join us tonight. They say they have no comment on this case.

And now to give her side, Cynthia Sommer.

I spoke with her earlier this week at Los Colinas Women's Detention Facility outside of San Diego.



KING: Hi, it's Larry King and I'm at the Los Colinas Women's Detention Facility in southern California, with Cindy Sommer, convicted last month of poisoning her Marine husband with arsenic. She says she's innocent and the case against her is purely circumstantial and, of course, is appealing that verdict.

This case has received national attention.

How shocked are you at all of this?

SOMMER: Very shocked. I never thought that -- that this would happen. I'm shocked that I was arrested. I'm shocked that I've spent 15 months in jail and I'm shocked at the verdict.

KING: So the whole thing is bizarre? Is that a correct word?

SOMMER: Very. Very. I felt like I have been in a movie for the past year.

KING: All right, let's go back.

How did Todd die?

SOMMER: I believe he had a heart attack in the middle of the night.

KING: Where were you? What happened?

SOMMER: In bed. He woke up -- well, he didn't -- he wasn't waking. He was mumbling in his sleep and I nudged him. And he got up and walked toward the bathroom. I turned him around and flipped the light on and I said, you know, are you OK? What's the matter? And he said, I'm OK. I'm fine.

And he collapsed.

KING: Right there?

SOMMER: Right there in our bedroom.

KING: You have four children, right?

SOMMER: Four children.

KING: All right, did you take his pulse? What did you do?

SOMMER: I -- I immediately told, you know, I shook him. I thought he maybe passed out. I shook him for a second. I called my daughter to find the phone. I got in -- I got on 911 and answered their questions. I wasn't sure if I should give CPR. I didn't know exactly what had happened -- and talked to them and made sure that people were on the way; gave CPR not -- and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KING: Did you know he -- was he dead right there, do you think?

SOMMER: I don't know. I know he was breathing.

KING: He was?

SOMMER: Yes, there was -- I know on the tape that I had said, "He's taking a breath. He's taking a breath." So I'm -- I don't know, I believe that he was on the way.

KING: Did the ambulances get there right away?

SOMMER: The M.P.s, the military police, got there, I believe, within two minutes.

KING: Oh, that's right. You were on a military base.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: This was where, here?

SOMMER: Yes, at MCAS Miramar. The M.P.s got there real quick and I'm not sure how long it took for the paramedics to get there, but once the M.P.s came, they quickly took over CPR.

KING: And they took him to...

SOMMER: They took him to Sharp Memorial Hospital.

KING: Is that where he was pronounced dead?


KING: Did you go over with him?

SOMMER: I didn't ride in the ambulance, no. I had a...

KING: You followed?

SOMMER: Yes. I had a military police officer escort.

KING: And death was ruled -- by the way, was he ill at all?

SOMMER: Yes. A week before he died, he was in El Centro, came home. I went to work so he didn't really mention not feeling well. When I got home at night at 10:30, you know, he, you know, 11:00, at 11:30 he -- I woke up and he was in the shower. And I said let's what is the matter? And he said he didn't feel well. He left it at that.

He was -- in the morning, not feeling well. He had a fever, throwing up, diarrhea. I went to the store on base, bought Gatorade, ginger ale, Tylenol PM, stuff to try to make him feel better and get some fluids in him.

KING: And he was OK after that?

SOMMER: No, he got -- and the next day he went to the base clinic, which is like an urgent care. He went there, was diagnosed, basically, with food poisoning. They said if you don't feel better within a day or so to come back. He stayed home from work on Monday. Tuesday he went to work. And at his lunch he went back, just to check. You know, he was feeling better but his symptoms hadn't all left.

KING: An acquaintance of yours, Susan Beach, testified that she got to your apartment before the paramedics arrived and that she had seen two wineglasses beside the bed where Todd collapsed.

The paramedics discredited her testimony.

What do you make of it?

SOMMER: Well, I don't -- that's really -- it's frustrating. The phone records state that I called her on her cell phone and I called her at her home residence. She wasn't there before the police came. And if she's saying what she's saying is true, I can't imagine anybody going over to someone's house when her husband has collapsed and just sitting on the couch and not doing anything about it.

KING: Why would she say that?

SOMMER: I don't know why she would say that.

KING: Do you think it was very damaging to you?

SOMMER: I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I think that it was -- I don't know what people's reasonings is for doing things that they do.

KING: Have you spoken to her since?


KING: OK. Now he passes away. This is a terrible tragedy, a young wife.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: Four children.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: What do they say the cause of death was?

SOMMER: The original autopsy said cardiac arrhythmia pending undetermined ideology.

KING: Did they do an autopsy?

SOMMER: They did.

KING: And what did the autopsy discover?

SOMMER: Nothing. Everything was normal. They did a -- a biopsy, I guess, of his heart. It was morphologically normal. Everything looked fine to them.

KING: So what did they write as cause?

SOMMER: Cardiac arrhythmia.

KING: The testing was done at a military -- a military institution?

SOMMER: Yes, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

KING: Now, the testing of his liver and kidney about a year after the death.

Let's explain this.

He was cremated, right?

SOMMER: Cremated, yes.

KING: You ordered some tissues to be held, right?

SOMMER: I just want to say on record because I know a lot of people are wondering about him being cremated, his mother wanted him to be cremated. He grew up in the Keys and people are cremated down there.

KING: Yes.

SOMMER: And he grew up going to the National Cemetery, which was a mile from his grandparents house. So they kind of had to talk me into doing that. I don't want anybody to think that, you know, I cremated him to get rid of any evidence.

KING: Because the audience should understand, he died in 2002.

SOMMER: Correct.

KING: This is 2007.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: All right, so this came up much later...

SOMMER: Right.

KING: ... to question his death, right?

SOMMER: Right.

KING: How did that happen? Who questioned it?

SOMMER: I have no idea where it came from. I don't know why they did a heavy metals test, out of all the tests that they could do. They did -- the problem is the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, they did the testing. Their environmental department did the testing, so they're not familiar -- it's not a forensics lab. They are doing other environmental testing on arsenic around the world. They do have DNA, which is the bad kind of arsenic, the one that, you know, you don't get from food.

KING: You've learned a lot about this?

SOMMER: A lot.

KING: Have you ever put arsenic in anything?

SOMMER: No. I didn't even know what arsenic was before they arrested me.


KING: You never put arsenic in anything?

SOMMER: No. I didn't even know what arsenic was before they arrested me.

KING: Do you k where to get arsenic?

SOMMER: Not a clue. Now I -- now, apparently, I guess, you can get it on eBay.

KING: You can on?

SOMMER: I don't believe that because -- you know, they say they got it on eBay but it all went to a military address. So...

KING: What took so long to do this testing?

SOMMER: I'm not sure. I don't know. I know -- I don't believe we ever got a reason why it took so long.

KING: And then did they just come and arrested you? SOMMER: They did the testing. They did -- they did surveillance. They have 6,000 pages of discovery that they have, that they -- my bank records, school records, anything that you can think of they looked at for the past seven, eight -- seven years. I mean there's still no link to me and arsenic.

KING: But the problem that you got into was about your lifestyle after he died.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: Let's discuss one thing -- the breast implants. It looked like you ran out and got breast implants.

SOMMER: Well...

KING: But you -- someone said you had discussed this with your husband.

SOMMER: Yes, he knew about that. My lifestyle before he died, we were a family. We did family things. We went -- we had annual passes to, you know, Wild Animal Park, the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Knotsbury Farms. We did things as a family quite often. All the time.

KING: How old are the kids?

SOMMER: My oldest was 10. And then, let's see, seven, six and not even two.

KING: Boys and girls?

SOMMER: Yes, a girl and three boys.


Now what happened after he died? What changed you?

SOMMER: I started drinking and I just really felt like I just lost it. After he died, I just -- I felt like I lost everything in my life that -- I lost my home. I lost my husband. I lost my best friend. I -- I lost, you know, the only income that we had. You know, and I didn't know what I was going to do. I had -- I had four children and that was my livelihood.

KING: You had the breast implants, though, right?


KING: You got $250,000 in insurance?


KING: All right.

SOMMER: And that was standard. Every military family gets $250,000. I didn't take it out.

KING: Out of that, you paid for the breast implants?


KING: All right.

And your husband and you discussed this, right, before?

SOMMER: We did.

KING: So it looked like, from the trial standpoint, you ran and got breast implants.

SOMMER: Oh, yes. Yes. No, this was something that was discussed. There is a Valentine's card that said, you know, next year you can get them. And after he died, like I said, I just kind of went downhill and I thought, you know, speaking with friends, maybe that would be something that would make me feel better, bring up my self- esteem. And...

KING: Cindy, do you think what did you in were sexual exploits? Honestly?

SOMMER: I -- I don't know. I believe my attorneys spoke to the jury afterward and the jury said that any of my experts didn't matter, they didn't take into the consideration any of that at all; that he was poisoned with arsenic and it had to be me.

I can't believe that our justice system can work that way.

It had to be me?

KING: Do you believe the jury?

SOMMER: I'm sorry.

KING: Do you believe the jury?

SOMMER: I do not believe the jury.

KING: Of course, your lawyer doesn't?


KING: Your lawyer thinks you were convicted because of the way you acted after he died, not because of his death?

SOMMER: Well, and I believe, also, that they -- they looked at the fact that this is a 5-year-old case. NCIS investigated for that long. NCIS is a great organization, so they must have it right. I have no -- I don't know what they were thinking. I don't know how the world thought one thing and 12 jurors thought something totally different.

KING: Some of the people -- I understand some of the people that you were involved with physically testified for you, right?

SOMMER: Yes. This -- and these were, these were friends that I was associated with. I didn't go to a bar and pick up guys. You know, these weren't random people. These were people that I felt comfortable with and I felt safe with, that I wanted comforting. I wanted somebody, you know, to hold me and that -- that's what happened.

KING: Do you think being involved with a couple -- you were involved with a couple...


KING: ... hurt you the most, in tranquil society?

SOMMER: I'm not sure. I...

KING: Wouldn't you bet on that? I mean, when you think about it.

SOMMER: It's not something I'm proud that I did. I mean if I could go back and change it I would. It was a horrible experience and I will never do it again. And I think, yes. I don't know if -- I don't know if they just looked at my case morally instead of...

KING: You think they did or not? Or you don't know?

SOMMER: I don't know. I think that they had to, in some degree.

KING: I mean you can't hear that someone has had three-way sex and not dismiss it from your mind...

SOMMER: Right. Correct.

KING: ... in judging her. And then she's supposed to have poisoned her husband.

SOMMER: Right. And the other thing is, like I said, these were people that -- that I knew and I was comfortable with. This was -- this was Todd's best friend, you know? It wasn't -- I didn't -- you know, it wasn't just going out and finding someone and that's -- I don't know how to explain that. And I'm not trying to say that that's any better, but I did it like that then...

KING: The prosecutors said that in the weeks after Todd's death, you were out there having sex with person after person after person after person.

Is that true?

SOMMER: No. It wasn't person after person.

KING: Where did they get that from?

SOMMER: I think she likes to embellish things and over exaggerate things and kind of grasp at things. There were four people that I had sex with and one of them I had a five year relationship with after and wasn't with anyone after him.

So, it was just, I believe, really a comfort thing. I needed -- I needed that.

KING: One news report after your trial -- about your trial -- says you were described during the trial as a chronic over spender, never lived within a budget.

SOMMER: I have never lived within a budget in my life. I had a -- my dad used to tease me, if I had a quarter in my pocket, I'd put it in a videogame. And he'd say you're getting somebody else rich, you know?

And I could keep it. And I've never been able to keep money. I've always been bad with money.

KING: What did you buy?

SOMMER: Clothes for...

KING: You already said you were a spender, that's why (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

SOMMER: Clothes for the kids. There was some talk about a Tiffany's ring, and it's just a $109 Tiffany's silver band.

KING: I know that band.

SOMMER: Yes. So, you know, it's not like I went out and bought a $10,000 ring, like they make it seem. I bought a computer. My daughter -- our computer was getting old and my daughter was in middle school and, you know, we bought a new computer that she could do her things on.

KING: But it wasn't $7,000, $8,000 pops?

SOMMER: No, it was, you know, I went shopping here, I went shopping there. I didn't, you know, go -- I had never been downtown so I had never been to a restaurant downtown. I mean I have never -- you know, it was taking the kids to Chili's or having (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KING: And you bought some dinners, but nothing over $50, right?

SOMMER: Yes, really not, yes.

KING: Guilty.

SOMMER: Guilty, yes. I over spent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened next?

SOMMER: I dialed 911.


Do you have an emergency?

SOMMER: Yes, my husband just (UNINTELLIGIBLE).



KING: Your mother- and father-in-law testified that you and Todd weren't living within your means.

Is that true?

SOMMER: That's true. I -- I don't know too many military families that do, that aren't in debt a lot.

KING: Well, the key here is, to me, what was the motive? Why, if you killed your husband, did you kill your husband? What did they say?

SOMMER: They say I did it for money and...

KING: For the $250,000? True?

SOMMER: Right. Which I gave $145,000 to my kids, to my children, which his family has control over. I can never touch that.

KING: And you put it in trust?

SOMMER: For their trust funds. It left me with some money. I paid his van off. I -- I paid a motorcycle off that Todd had bought that now Honda was coming after me for having stolen property. I mean there were things that -- and then, you know, I bought some things for the kids and when you're an addict, you know, you tend to do things that make you feel good, and shopping was one of those things that -- I went out and bought things and -- to mask how I was feeling and try to make myself better.

KING: Did Todd have any problems like that, that?


KING: So you were a match made in heaven?

SOMMER: Oh, absolutely. Yes. We had a garage full of air tools, power tools, you name it. We had an engine for our car from Japan, all sorts of things.

KING: Had you been married before?


KING: Children in that marriage?

SOMMER: The first three, yes. KING: The first three.

So Todd was raising them?


KING: Are they with their father now?

SOMMER: No. They...

KING: Where are your children then?

SOMMER: My boys are with my brother and my daughter is living with my mother.

KING: All right, now you're arrested, right?


KING: Why were you in here for all those months?

SOMMER: No bail.

KING: No bail?

SOMMER: No bail.

KING: Because of murder?

They thought you were a flight risk or a murder charge?

SOMMER: I'm not sure. I think it -- I don't know. Again, I really don't know. I think it's because I was a flight risk that they thought I would run. However, they came to talk to me one day and I went to work the next day and sent my kids to daycare and went into the gym at lunchtime, never thinking oh my gosh I'm a suspect and they're going to arrest me.

KING: Your previous marriage, was it a bad ending?

SOMMER: I think it was a mutual sort of this needs to end.

KING: Is he a father to the kids?


KING: He's not?


KING: You -- let's go back a bit.

By the way, how did you and Todd meet?

SOMMER: I was going through a divorce with my first husband, talking online to friends. He said hey, you know, come down to Camp Lejeune, you know, we'll just get away for the weekend. I grabbed a friend and we went down there. And I met Todd and we've been -- we were together ever since.

KING: Was there honestly ever any infidelity in the marriage with Todd?


KING: On his part?

Well, you wouldn't know if on his part, but you would doubt it.

SOMMER: Yes, I wouldn't know. I mean, look, there's a thing -- there's a saying, what happens on the boat stays on the boat. I have no idea.

KING: But you never cheated?

SOMMER: I never cheated.

KING: So all of this must be a swirl to you? Experts -- several testified in the trial that the test results showing arsenic in your late husband's body were questionable.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: Experts said that they were questionable.

SOMMER: Correct.

KING: Yet you were convicted.

SOMMER: Right. All three of my experts, Dr. Laura Labay, Dr. Bakowska and Dr. Poklis all testified that the levels in his body aren't consistent with someone poisoned with arsenic.

One of the new things is it wasn't in all the tissues, it was only in two. The chain of custody was broken. That was the chain of custody for all tissues, from the time they were harvested until the time that we were in trial. Who had them, where they had them, when they were put back, that whole thing -- except for the liver, the kidney and the blood -- there's broken chains of custody.

There's -- in some spots, I mean it's years that they don't have this.

KING: Huh.

SOMMER: It -- it's strange that those are the only tissues that come up positive for arsenic.

KING: All right, so basically they said you were out to get $250,000?

SOMMER: Right.

KING: And you somehow pulled off -- you -- the perfect crime.

SOMMER: Well...

KING: Because if they didn't nab you, if you didn't put his organs in, gone, right?

SOMMER: Right. Well, first off, my first husband I put through law school, the University of Michigan; worked for a very prestigious law firm, who was the law firm for the attorney general of Michigan and was starting a great career. And I left that. It was never about money.

Like I said, I mean, my spending habits were horrible.

KING: But you're someone who doesn't care about money, right?

SOMMER: Yes. I can't take it with me, I guess, you know? I don't know. I guess I need help with that.

KING: Who -- how is your relationship with Todd's family?

SOMMER: Until I was arrested, great. I talked to his mother. I moved to Florida, to West Palm Beach. His sister lived -- his sister Erin lived in West Palm Beach and his mother lived in Islamorada, a two hour drive to her. And his sister was within town.

KING: That was for several years you lived there?


KING: What brought you back here?

SOMMER: Being arrested. They extradited me.

KING: Oh, they arrested you in Palm -- in Florida?


KING: And extradited you?

SOMMER: And extradited me.

KING: So, and that brought -- the relationship with Todd's parents went sour?

SOMMER: I haven't spoke to them since I've been arrested.

KING: Since you were arrested?

SOMMER: Right. I spoke to them Thanksgiving and was arrested on the 30th.

KING: Were they in court for the trial?

SOMMER: Yes. They testified.

KING: Harshly?

SOMMER: No, I don't believe so. I believe they were -- they were honest in, you know, our money problems and we didn't have a volatile relationship anything more than a normal couple would have.

KING: What's left of the insurance money?

SOMMER: $145,000 or however much is in...

KING: Is in trust?

SOMMER: In their trust, yes.

KING: Now, you've got a very supportive cousin...


KING: ... named Todd, as well.

SOMMER: Todd, yes.

KING: How about your family?

SOMMER: My family is great. My mom and dad are great. And I've been actually reunited with my real father after 10 years and my mom, it's been 20 years. So I've been talking to him and writing with him and so that's been...

KING: How old are you now?

SOMMER: I'm sorry?

KING: How old are you now?

SOMMER: Thirty-three.

KING: What did you expect?

SOMMER: At worst, a hung jury, at worst.


KING: All right, take me to the courtroom. And first of all, what was it like to testify?

SOMMER: That was very -- it was hard. It was -- I was terrified. Of course, these aren't some things that I want the country to know. I guess I did really what I had to. I had anxiety attacks, so I was trying not to go through that. I tried to answer everything as honestly as I could and not -- it was very hard.

KING: Was the prosecution rough on you?

SOMMER: Yes, I felt she tried to twist some of my words. There was a comment made -- well, first of all, when they interviewed me -- and MCIS came to interview in Palm Beach. They tape-recorded it. Now, out of all the tape recordings that they did for all their interviews, mine is the only tape recording that didn't work. I find that very ironic, that mine didn't work. So...

KING: So there's no tape of that interview?

SOMMER: No tape of that interview. So what they said was, a couple of hours later, we all got together and, you know, we figured out what she said. So it was kind of hearsay, you know? It was like, this is what we think she said and a lot of things that I said weren't accurate -- or that they asked me weren't accurate, and then my responses were not what I said.

For instance, they asked me about going for the consultation for the implants the day that Todd was in El Centro. I had said, you know, that he had been to a consultation with me before. We had been to several consultations. He just didn't go to that one. They took that as, he didn't go to that one, Doctor Miller's office was never mentioned. I never mentioned it.

KING: This is tough for you?


KING: How long were you on the stand?

SOMMER: I don't even know.

KING: OK, now the jury? They're out. They come back. They came back quick.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: A matter of hours, right?

SOMMER: Three days.

KING: What did you expect?

SOMMER: At worst, a hung jury, at worst. And I tried to prepare myself for that. I really never thought they would come back with a guilty verdict based on -- for one, not linking me to arsenic, two my doctors giving reasonable doubt as to whether or not these tissues are contaminated or not, with the chain of custody. I don't know.

I've never read any research anywhere that somebody has walked around with 1,000 times the level -- of lethal levels of arsenic, walking around and riding roller coasters the day before they die. All the case studies that I've read, that my experts had read, is three days hospitalized on life support.

KING: All right, when they said guilty, was that a state of shock?


KING: Did your lawyers grab hold of you? Did... SOMMER: My investigator did. It really didn't hit me until I got back here and was with my roommate and -- and realized, you know, what --

KING: You face life in prison, right?


KING: This is where you had been held before the trial?


KING: So, you know this facility pretty well?


KING: And you'll be here till sentencing?

SOMMER: We're trying -- there are some things that we're trying to do right now. We have options before sentencing. The judge can overturn the verdict based on the verdict doesn't match the evidence.

And there's also things that the jury overlooked as far as what our experts had said. And the jury just overlooked that. So I think there's some serious problems there and in getting a new trial.

KING: And the worst case is you get sentenced, when? March?

SOMMER: Yes, we'll continue that. So, probably will be in March.

KING: In which they will keep you here until they assign you to some state prison.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: Appeals take a long time.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: Are your lawyers fairly confident of something happening before all of this?

SOMMER: Every lawyer I spoke to is confident that something will happen before an appeal.

KING: Is the general consensus here at the jail that you got a wrong -- you got a bad deal?

SOMMER: Oh, yeah. I mean, I have -- there are some deputies just don't know what to say. The sergeants, the lieutenants, are -- you know, they can't believe it. The deputies can't believe it. Inmates can't believe it. You know, it's just unbelievable. It's very shocking.

KING: What do you do with your time? What do you do all day here?

SOMMER: What do I do all day? Well, I read. I do Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, write letters.

KING: Kids -- can the kids visit?

SOMMER: My daughter has visited, the boys, it's too hard for them to all get here, you know.

KING: Where are they?

SOMMER: Because they're in Michigan.

KING: So the daughter can come.

SOMMER: She's come once.

KING: What was it like for her?

SOMMER: I had a contact visit with her and...

KING: Meaning you could touch her?

SOMMER: Yes, we had almost two hours.

KING: Why are we behind glass?

SOMMER: I don't know. I guess this is how the jail does it and they...

KING: Because this isn't a prison. It's a jail.

SOMMER: Right.

KING: I mean, I've seen it in prison, but I've never seen it in a jail.

SOMMER: Right. It's policy. I don't know.

KING: Do you get time outside to exercise?

SOMMER: Two hours a week. And sometimes its raining, we don't get to go out. Sometimes there is a facility lock down and we don't get to go out. It's just something -- I've become accustomed to living here.

KING: Are you in cell?

SOMMER: I'm sorry?

KING: Are you in a cell?

SOMMER: Oh, sorry, yes. I'm in a cell with two other women.

KING: Oh, there's three women in a cell.

SOMMER: There's three women in a cell the size of a bathroom, toilet sink and a mirror.

KING: Are they all convicted, too, or are some awaiting trial?

SOMMER: One is down for court from prison. The other one is -- she has a co-defendant. She's waiting for sentencing while her co- defendants deal with their cases.

KING: So what do you want to say to people, Cindy? In your own words, what do you want to say?

SOMMER: You know, I've been receiving a lot of letters from a lot of people and I thank them for their support. And it really means a lot to me.

I created the web site. I know people want to help and people have suggestions. So they can go to that web site. I am just very grateful that I have a lot of support and the support that I have, so thank you.

KING: How can you explain all that, that so many people are interested in you?

SOMMER: I think because it doesn't make sense. You know, I don't believe I should have been arrested. There is 6,000 pages of discovery with -- never linking me to arsenic, with not even coming close. They -- there's nothing. And there's nothing that even says -- or anyone says that I wanted to, or that I was even in an unhappy marriage or that I was so deeply in debt that I had to get out -- or anything like that. I just don't -- I think the community sees that.

KING: Good luck, Cindy.

SOMMER: Thank you.


SOMMER: I went in, and he was covered with a white sheet. I pulled it back. He didn't really seem like he was real. I told him that I loved him.



KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. We've heard what Cynthia Sommer has to say about the case that's got her looking at life in prison without parole. Now, let's hear from someone who grew up closely with her -- Cynthia's cousin, Todd Tice.


KING: We're at the Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility with Todd Tice. He is Cynthia Sommer's cousin. Are you two very close?

TODD TICE, CYNTHIA SOMMER'S COUSIN: Yes. We were much closer when we were younger. Every Sunday, we'd always go over to the grandparents for dinner and things like that. But last about 10 years or so, since I've moved away from Michigan, we get back together for the holidays, typically, but you know. So, yeah, we were close except for the last 10 years or so.

KING: Do they allow you kind of open visitation here?

TICE: No, it's pretty much same as everyone. You get set times. I mean, they're helping us out when we need some things, but it's for the most part, it's set times. And there is always a glass.

KING: Did you attend the trial?

TICE: Yes, I was there for the last three weeks of it.

KING: What was that like?

TICE: Hell. I'd have to say that it's probably -- I would compare it to death, really. Because it's almost, I could see it's almost easier to lose someone to a death, it's easier to understand, maybe, and explain.

KING: So, in other words, if one of our wives were to die and we went out dating?

TICE: Went out and had a few beers.

KING: Hey, he's a guy.

TICE: Absolutely.

KING: Why do you think she donated the tissue for research? Because the tissue is the thing that -- it led to the poisoning, right?

TICE: Aren't you going to donate your...?

KING: I am, yeah.

TICE: So am I.

KING: But if I killed someone, I don't think I'd donate.

TICE: She didn't kill anyone. And that's the whole thing. You wouldn't have done that. I mean, if she would have done that, as far as killed someone, why in the world would you ever donate the tissues? I mean, that is sending everything right to anybody who wants to find you guilty of something. So, she didn't.

KING: Did you know her husband?

TICE: No, I had never met him.

KING: What kind of girl is Cindy?

TICE: I guess you'd say she's really like most the other 30- year-old moms. She liked to have fun. You know? And Todd actually -- it seemed like she really started to settle down a lot when she met Todd and was with Todd. I mean, I never -- I only heard great things from my mom and my aunt about Todd and how good he was for Cindy.

KING: So, it was a shock for the whole family when he died?

TICE: Oh, absolutely.

KING: How old was he, 25?

TICE: Twenty-three.

KING: How do you assess how well her attorney did?

TICE: I think he did a very good job. I mean, yeah, it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback afterwards and say some of the things that, you know, maybe you'd do different, and I'm sure he'd tell you the same thing, there is a couple of things he'd do different. But, I mean, you have to go with your experience I think and what you think -- how you think the jury is going to react to some things. And he went with that, and it turns out we were all wrong.

KING: The introduction of her sex life after the death of her husband, and the buying and the implants, the whole thing. Do you think that did her in? Do you think she was convicted of the way she acted after the death, rather than the killing?

TICE: Well that's -- I have to believe that, because there was no other evidence there. I mean, there is not even any evidence that he was murdered. I mean, I have -- you know, there is some investigating still going on now, and in all the chain of custody paperwork, that actually we didn't get until five minutes before the rebuttal witness went up on the stand. But obviously, 85 pages take a long time to go through, and the toxicologist and the doctors are going through all of that as we're sitting here right now.


TICE: And they're finding more and more problems with the chain of command and where it was contaminated.

KING: You're saying you're not even sure there was an arsenic poisoning?

TICE: I'm sure he wasn't -- he didn't die of arsenic poison. I have no question whatsoever that he didn't die of arsenic poisoning.

KING: What do you think he died of?

TICE: A heart arrhythmia.

KING: A 23-year-old in the Marines.

TICE: Hey, how many times do we see it -- from that football player or that basketball player going up and down on the court or field, he's incredible shape. And he drops and dies of a heart attack. I mean, it happens. Obviously, it's rare, but it happens. I mean, he was in top physical condition, 23-year-old Marine.

KING: Sentencing is?

TICE: March 23rd.

KING: What do you think she's going to get?

TICE: She'll get life in prison without a chance for parole.

KING: Thanks, Todd.

TICE: Thank you.

KING: Todd Tice, Cynthia Sommer's cousin, at the Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility.


SOMMER: I kept asking if he was OK. I just wanted him to be OK.



KING: We are going to spend the remaining moments of tonight's intriguing show with Beth Karas, one of the best journalists in the field, the Court TV correspondent who covered the murder trial of Cynthia Sommer from the get-go.

All right, your opinion from the obvious. Did the evidence presented at trial warrant the verdict?

BETH KARAS, COURT TV: Well, you know, I always thought that there was a problem with the prosecution, because they could not connect the arsenic to Cynthia Sommer. No evidence she ever possessed it, attempted to buy it, attempted to possess it. If there was such evidence, it was gone before they even discovered arsenic in Todd Sommer's tissues. So I always thought that was a hole in the prosecution's case.

KING: So how, Beth, did they win this case?

KARAS: By showing that at the time that his symptoms showed up, February 8th until February 9th, 10 days before he died, the only adult with him was his wife. The symptoms show up within 30 minutes to four hours from ingestion. So it was sort of a process of elimination. If she didn't do it, then who?

KING: What about testing the liver and kidneys a year later, did that factor?

KARAS: Well, you know, it was just sort of luck that it was done, luck on the part of Todd Sommer's family. These tissues and organs were preserved. That was Navy policy. And before closing the case, there was someone on the Navy death review board that said, let's just test these for heavy metals. Just because he was so healthy and he died in this strange way, with these gastrointestinal problems.

So the tissues, arguably, were not handled the way they would have been if they knew all along they were looking for arsenic. There was not an environmental lab that tested them, there was no standard operating procedure in place at the time. There were issues about chain of custody, how were these tissues handled that were never really answered, never fully explained. But it clearly didn't bother the jury.

KING: And we also had conflicting expert testimony, right? She had three experts testify for the defense.

KARAS: Yes. Now, she put on toxicologists. The prosecution put on a toxicologist, more than one, and also a pathologist. The defense did not put on a pathologist to talk about cause of death. However, their main toxicologist, Alphonse Poklis, did say, in all of the cases he's worked on -- and he has the most experience of anyone on both sides who testified -- this is inconsistent with acute arsenic poisoning. But they did not put on an M.D. to testify to that.

KING: All right. Breast implants two months after her husband's death. What does that prove or infer? Since she told us that she had discussed that with her husband, even wrote about it in a Valentine's card. Was that supposed to be a surprise?

KARAS: Well, see, that's a good point. Ultimately, the prosecution had to concede that Todd apparently knew about it, because there was evidence that he knew about it, including that Valentine's Day card written a couple of days before he died, saying maybe you can have new ones next year. They just didn't have the money at the time.

Cynthia had maintained she thought it would help her self-esteem if she got breast implants.

I don't think that that is such a big deal, that she got the breast implants. But it's part of the package of her behavior after the fact that may not have sat well with the jury.

KING: All right. Was it fair, in a sense, to convict her on a promiscuous lifestyle?

KARAS: No. Absolutely not, if indeed that's what they did. I mean, I believe they thought by process of elimination, she had to be the one, that this was poisoning, and she's the only adult who could have done it at that time.

Her lifestyle afterwards certainly did not help her case. And the judge did keep it out until the defense put her character at issue in their own case, and then that opened the door to this stuff coming out.

KING: We will be back with a few more minutes with Beth Karas of Court TV right after these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SOMMER: They asked me if he was on organ donor. I said I didn't know if it was on his driver's license or not. And I signed a consent for organ donation.



KING: We are back with Beth Karas. I have got a book that I wrote the introduction to, Beth, just out, called "Reasonable Doubt" -- "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt." Many, many people contributing, lawyers and others. Is this a classic case of reasonable doubt?

KARAS: Well, I have got to tell you, this could be. Many people, people who see things from a prosecutor's point of view, when looking at the evidence in this case said, this is reasonable doubt. If ever there was a case of reasonable doubt.

But, look, 12 jurors, 12 minds, disagreed with that, and probably would not be happy to hear me say this and many other people saying this. But, yes, I do think -- I would understand -- I certainly would have understood if this jury found reasonable doubt.

KING: The shopping spree, did that matter? A $3,000 computer, $109 Tiffany ring, did that mean anything?

KARAS: You know, half of the quarter million dollar life insurance policy went in trust funds. The other half -- she paid off some major debts, $30,000 for an SUV, the debt that Todd's father had incurred. A lot of clothes for the kids at Abercrombie & Fitch. She used to buy second-hand clothes for the kids. Now she could buy them some nice clothes.

So -- and she was going out to Fuddruckers and restaurants like that and treating people. She wasn't going out to the Palm or some really high-priced restaurant.

So, you know, again, it's part of the big package that maybe didn't sit well with the jury.

KING: Have the jurors been interviewed, Beth?

KARAS: Not by me and not that I'm aware of. They were not happy right after the verdict. They were refusing interviews. Now, I'm not aware -- since I came right back to New York -- if they had been talking now. But they may eventually. Some of them almost always do.

KING: Not happy about what?

KARAS: You know, I think that they were aware after the verdict that people were on Cynthia's side, or at least felt that there was a problem with the prosecution, there was reasonable doubt. And they just snubbed us at the courthouse. I mean, they were invited to an area to participate in a press conference or be interviewed individually. There were people handing them letters, as is often done, this is how you contact us. They were refusing the letters, refusing to talk to us.

KING: Did they have a choice of any lesser charges, second degree or manslaughter?

KARAS: No. It was all or nothing for the jury. The defense believed that she didn't do this, and that it's just all or nothing.

At one point, the prosecution considered asking for second degree, but the judge was like, look, she either poisoned him or she didn't. There's no real explanation for giving them a lesser charge, unless you want them to compromise.

KING: Intriguing case. Thanks so much, Beth, as always.

KARAS: My pleasure.

KING: Beth Karas, Court TV, who covered this trial from the get- go. Something tells me we have not heard the last of Cynthia Sommer.

That's it for tonight. "AC 360" with Anderson Cooper is next -- Anderson.


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