Man receives life sentence in poisoning deaths Drug tampering was part of a plot

June 09, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SEATTLE -- Former insurance salesman Joseph Meling wa sentenced to life in prison without parole yesterday for the drug-tampering deaths of two people and the attempted poisoning of his wife.

Meling, 31, of Tumwater, Wash., continued to declare his innocence in a final statement before sentencing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanne Maida argued that Meling showed no remorse for his convictions.

"These deaths were intentionally committed and knowingly committed," Ms. Maida said. "The only thing Joseph Meling did not know when he injected these capsules with cyanide was who would die at his bidding."

Meling was convicted by a jury April 2 on 11 counts, including perjury, product tampering, and causing the deaths of Kathleen Daneker, 40 of Tacoma, and Stanley McWhorter, 44 of Lacey, Wash., to cover up the attempted poisoning of his wife.

Prosecutors said Meling plotted to kill his wife, Jennifer, to collect $700,000 from life insurance policies he'd taken out on her. He then planted cyanide-laced capsules in boxes of Sudafed sinus medication, placing them on store shelves in Western Washington to make it look like she was the victim of a random killer.

Meling's attorneys had argued for a sentence of between 21 to 27 years in prison.

Meling, 31, said he felt sorry for the poisoning victims, and that his anger voiced to his wife and the FBI during the investigation was misunderstood. He said he continues to be devoted to his wife, who still suffers medical and emotional problems from ingesting the cyanide.

The government's case, he said, was "full of holes" and the "person still responsible for these crimes is still out there. . . . I have reason to be angry."

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