Originally created 04/13/02

Wife charged in poisoning death



HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Police say a vacation ended in murder last year when a wealthy Newberry man was poisoned by his wife.

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

Deputies from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office arrested the 41-year-old woman at her Newberry home Thursday 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, Mrs. Spotts gave her husband a lethal dose of arsenic Aug. 4 at their Shorewood Villas vacation home. Someone later called 911 from the parking lot, and Mr. Spotts was taken to Hilton Head Medical Center & Clinics. He died two days later.

A lethal amount of arsenic was found in his body, according to autopsy tests.

"Some of the forensic tests took awhile to get back," Detective Bob Bromage said. "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, Mr. Spotts' body was exhumed for a more thorough autopsy.

"Obviously, the second autopsy was to look for something more specific," said sheriff's office spokeswoman Debbie Szpanka. "We had a target."

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

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

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