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Local News Web posted Friday, April 12, 2002

Wife charged with poisoning husband

Investigators say she gave him a lethal dose of arsenic while vacationing on island.

By Stephanie Broadbent
Carolina Morning News

A Hilton Head Island vacation ended in murder after a wealthy Newberry man was poisoned by his wife, police say.

More than eight months after Alfred Spotts died from acute arsenic poisoning at a Hilton Head hospital, his wife, Tessie Buhawe Spotts, was charged with murder Thursday.

Deputies from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office arrested the 41-year-old woman at her Newberry home and searched it with the help of state and local police. She was taken to the Beaufort County Detention Center to await a bond hearing.

According to an arrest warrant, Tessie Spotts allegedly gave her husband a lethal dose of arsenic on Aug. 4 at their Shorewood Villas vacation home. Someone later called 911 from the parking lot and Al Spotts was taken to Hilton Head Medical Center & Clinics. He died there two days later.

After his death, a fatal amount of arsenic was found in his body, according to autopsy tests.

"Some of the forensic tests took a while to get back," said Detective Bob Bromage. "We didn't have a cause of death until at least a month after his death."

That's when the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation with the help of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. In February, Spotts' body was exhumed for a more thorough autopsy.

"Obviously the second autopsy was to look for something more specific," said Beaufort County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Debbie Szpanka. "We had a target."

Few details were released about the alleged crime or a possible motive Thursday.

But according to an earlier Associated Press story, Tessie Spotts is involved in a legal battle with Al Spotts' two children for a bigger share of his $11.6 million estate.

Al and Tessie Spotts married in 1992 after the South Carolina millionaire met the Philippines native through a magazine advertisement. He was 59 and she was 30.

Al Spotts left his wife $1 million, including their ranch-style home, but she contested the will in December. She wants a third of his estate.

His children from an earlier marriage, Cathy Hamilton, Jill Leonard and Jeff Spotts, said in a counterclaim that their father had a prenuptial agreement limiting Tessie Spotts to $1 million in property and cash, the AP story said.

In their legal filings the children said she's due nothing because Al Spotts died "as a result of (Tessie Spotts') felonious and intentional acts. ... As a result of such wrongful acts, she should be barred from receiving any assets."

Tessie Spotts was calm and cooperative when deputies knocked on her door, Szpanka said. At least two police officers went through the home collecting evidence.

"It was a nice house but it wasn't a mansion," Szpanka said.

Reporter Stephanie Broadbent can be reached at 837-5255, ext. 110, or at stephanie @ lowcountrynow.com

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