‘She just decided she wanted him dead’: The case of the ‘black widow’

The case of the ‘black widow’

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - In 1994, a recently divorced, prominent Bethesda North Heart Surgeon named Darryl Sutorius thought he'd met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Della, a 44-year old who had also been divorced. In Della’s case, four times. The two were soon married.

“She was relatively attractive," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said.

But by 1996, Deters’ team was prosecuting Della Sutorius for the murder of her husband. Deters says Della went to a target range, bought a gun, went back to their Symmes Ridge Lane home in Symmes Township, went to the basement where Dr. Sutorius was lying on a couch, and in Deters’ words, "popped him."

“She just decided she wanted him dead," Deters said. “And she just shot him in the head. It was a scary, scary story.”

Della’s defense team argued Dr. Sutorius killed himself, claiming he could not deal with the fact that Della was going to ruin his reputation, by saying he was impotent, and that he smelled.

“Apparently he suffered from a physical condition. He had very severe hemorrhoids," defense attorney Scott Croswell said during the trial. “And that because of that, he was unable to bathe, and he was unable to maintain his personal hygiene."

On the flip side, the prosecution argued that Dr. Sutorius was about to file for divorce. If that happened, Della would never get any of her husband’s pension money.

“Through a divorce, she gets zero," prosecutor Tom Longano argued during the trial. “If the doctor dies, she gets $900,000."

The prosecutors had something else up their sleeves. A history of threats and violence, told by Della’s four prior husbands, and a former boyfriend who wanted to break up with her but had to do it face to face, at Della’s request.

“He said look, we’re done, and she goes, at least you told me to my face,” Deters remembers. “And he goes home, and his house was burned down. She had taken his clothes out of the closet, and set them on fire.”

Raw interview: Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Joe Deters on Della Sutorius

Deters said it was burning as she was meeting him. Retired former Judge Richard Niehaus, who presided over the trial, recounted a similar story.

“I’m telling you she torched one boyfriend’s car,” Niehaus said. “One guy that gave her the gun took the bullets out of it. She was complaining about it. Maybe she wanted to shoot him.”

Raw interview: Retired Judge Richard Niehaus on Della Sutorius

The trial was a made for TV drama. Even her appearances during the trial made headlines.

“She’s wearing these designer clothes,” said Niehaus. “They’re not $100, they’re probably $700-$800. And she had them in different colors and stuff.”

Niehaus said women would come to court and talk about it.

“Obviously she didn’t mind spending his money, which is what the girls were saying,” according to Niehaus.

The prosecution referred to Della as a "black widow", a female spider known for eating their mates. The prosecution swayed the jury, who convicted her. Before sentencing her to life in prison, Niehaus referred to her, not as a “black widow", but a different kind of predator.

“I thought she was more like a lionfish," Niehaus said. “Cause they’re beautiful on the outside, but they’re vicious.”

Della Sutorius died in prison of natural causes on November 20th, 2010. She was 60. Despite serving a life sentence, she would have been up for a parole hearing in 2013.

We reached out to her former husbands and boyfriends, as well as the family of Dr. Sutorious, for this story. Many did not want to talk. Others did not respond.

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