Richard Overton poisoned his wife’s makeup to kill her because of jealousy
Janet Overton, 46, a dedicated mother and school board leader, planned to go whale watching with her teenage son Eric on Jan. 24, 1988. It was a perfect day for the outing.
But suddenly everything went tragically wrong. Janet collapsed in the driveway of her home in Dana Point, California. Eric and his father, Richard Overton, called 911. The two followed the ambulance to the hospital, where Janet was pronounced dead.
âWhen the coroner’s office performed the autopsy on Janet Overton, the result was inconclusive. They had no cause of death, âsaid former TV journalist Tricia Takasugi. “The Real Orange County Murders,” aeration Sundays at 7 / 6c to Oxygen.
The mystery surrounding the sudden death has forced investigators to take a closer look at Janet’s disappearance. They reviewed medical records and medical history and spoke with friends and family, said Gene Endsley, a retired Orange County Sheriff‘s Department investigator.
While the answers don’t immediately appear, one of Janet’s friends told detectives she felt “pretty shabby” and complained of inexplicable wounds.
As investigators looked into Janet’s unexplained illness, they also looked into her role as a school board member to see if she had made enemies. They discovered that Janet’s progressive ideas sometimes led to clashes with conservative members of the community.
Detectives also learned of rumors of a smear campaign involving Janet’s involvement in an extramarital affair. âThere was a note affixed to every car in the district office parking lot saying this,â said Debra Jackson, district attorney, Orange County.
Investigators observed that Janet’s deteriorating health coincided with the rumor of the affair with a school official. The other man was revealed as Bill dawson, a married deputy superintendent. And in a shocking twist, Janet soon learned that her husband was behind the leaflets distributed to tarnish his reputation, a friend told the producers.
Then, six months after Janet’s death, an unexpected call from Richard’s ex-wife Dorothy Bayer shed shocking light on his marital history.
In the early 1970s, Boyer developed strange and sudden illnesses after filing for a divorce. Boyer’s cosmetics and coffee were determined to have been mixed with selenium, which can be fatal in large doses. Dorothy confronted Richard with her discovery, but did not push for prosecution.
When detectives realized Richard knew he had poisoned someone, they followed this lead. Paul Sedgwick, a retired Coroner’s Toxicologist for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, examined the contents of Janet’s stomach for evidence of foul play and he basically punched her in the face.
âI smelled the cyanide instantly,â he told producers. “Cyanide just shouldn’t be in a person’s body in high enough concentrations to be detected by smell.”
Investigators had learned that Richard, who has taught at various colleges and worked in the defense industry, had a partner involved in gold mining and had access to cyanide and other metallurgical materials, Endsley said.
When questioned by the lead investigator in the case, Richard argued that he had had a happy and loving marriage and had no way of getting cyanide. He abruptly interrupted the interview when detectives urged him to the truth.
Their son, Eric Overton, finally told detectives he feared his parents were on the verge of divorce and admitted it was possible his father killed his mother, according to “Real Murders of Orange County”.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for Richard’s house to search for cyanide, selenium and other toxins and evidence. They put together articles they found on selenium, vitamins, medications, open cans of coffee, and Janet’s makeup. They also collected Richard’s written logs and those on his computer that had been deleted and recovered.
In diary passages, Richard wrote about his wife in a way that contradicted what he had told detectives about her happy marriage. In these, he “meticulously recorded his wife’s activities, including alleged affairs”, reported the Los Angeles Times. Her diaries contained references to Janet’s “seduction equipment” – including condoms and vibrators.
Laboratory analysis of Janet’s cosmetics revealed Richard’s sinister method of poisoning her. He spiked his mascara with selenium. Over time, tiny doses of selenium, applied daily and absorbed through the skin, had a cumulative effect. Cyanide, “maybe slipped into her coffee the day she died”, reported the Associated Press, was faster.
On October 1, 1991, Richard Overton was arrested for the murder of Janet. The trial began eight months later. During the proceedings, Richard allegedly suffered a heart attack and the trial was declared null and void. At the second trial, Richard Overton was convicted of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 2009, 81-year-old Richard Overton died while serving a sentence at Folsom State Prison. The cause of death was advanced dementia and complications from diabetes. He continued to proclaim his innocence while behind bars.
To learn more about the case, watch “The Real Orange County Murders,” aeration Sundays at 7 / 6c to Oxygen, or broadcast episodes here.