Trial begins in case of Houston oncologist accused of poisoning her lover's coffee

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HOUSTON — A Texas oncologist was obsessed with and had a "fatal attraction" to her fellow physician lover, whose rejection prompted her to poison him by lacing his coffee with ethylene glycol, prosecutors said Monday as her aggravated assault trial began.

"The evidence is going to show she became absolutely and totally obsessed," Justin Keiter, an assistant Harris County district attorney, said during opening arguments in the trial of Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, 43, a breast cancer doctor based at Houston's famed Texas Medical Center.

But Andy Drumheller, one of Gonzalez-Angulo's lawyers, told jurors in his opening statement that the relationship between his client and lung cancer physician and researcher George Blumenschein was consensual, that it was not over at the time and that other people may be responsible for his poisoning.

"'Fatal attraction' is complete hyperbole and exaggeration," he said.

Blumenschein and Gonzalez-Angulo met at the medical center, and their work evolved into a "casual sexual relationship," according to a criminal complaint.

Prosecutors said Blumenschein ended his affair with Colombian-born Gonzalez-Angulo, spurning her in favor of his 10-year live-in girlfriend, with whom he was trying to have children.

Blumenschein then survived kidney failure after Gonzalez-Angulo made and served him two cups of tainted coffee last year, prosecutors said. Ethylene glycol is common additive in automotive antifreeze but also is used in University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center labs, where the two worked.

Gonzalez-Angulo had fixed the coffee for him at her home the morning of Jan. 27, 2013, Keiter said. Then they both went to work, where she gave him another cup of the same brew, which she brought in a travel cup, according to Keiter. That evening, he became weak and went to his hospital for help. Within hours, he was in intensive care.

Prosecutors also said tape recordings of conversations between the two would help prove Gonzalez-Angulo's guilt.

"At end of this trial, it's not my words that will convict her, it's her own," Keiter said.

A conviction could get Gonzalez-Angulo up to 99 years in prison.

Drumheller, the defense attorney, said Blumenschein never suggested during the time immediately after he was treated that the sweet-tasting coffee may have been a factor in his serious illness.

Blumenschein also never said Gonzalez-Angulo might have been responsible until 2 ½ months later until after he told his live-in girlfriend of the affair and after she suggested Gonzalez-Angulo as the poisoner, Drumheller said.

A physician determined Blumenschein had ingested the chemical. But Drumheller said Monday that a scientist would testify the chemical could have been taken days earlier and the illness' onset could have been delayed by Blumenschein's alcohol use.

He described Gonzales-Angulo as independent, professional, amicably separated from her husband of more than 12 years and devoted to her profession.

"The idea that she would spoil it in her own backyard is completely inconsistent," Drumheller said.


Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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