Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo seemed to be at the peak of her career. As a tenured associate professor at the University of Texas, she specialized in breast cancer and was chief of clinical research and drug development at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her research has been funded by big-name players in the field, including the National Cancer Institute, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and Komen for the Cure. She was also chair of the Endocrine Resistance Working Group, and a member of the Correlative Sciences Working Group for the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, the Breast Cancer Committee of SWOG, and the BIG-NABG Triple Negative Working Group. With such sparkling success, it’s a wonder why Gonzalez-Angulo would risk giving all that up by attempting to kill someone.

On September 29, the 43-year-old oncologist was sentenced to 10 years in prison for poisoning her colleague-turned-lover by spiking his coffee with ethylene glycol, a sweet but toxic chemical found in antifreeze. The events that unfolded beforehand uncannily play out like a daytime hospital soap opera, as fellow doctor, George Blumenschein, 50, had been having an affair with Gonzalez-Angulo behind his girlfriend’s back for 6 months in the latter half of 2012. Suspicions of his mistress began a couple months before he was poisoned, when an anonymous letter was sent to the home that he shared with his girlfriend, Evette Toney, cryptically referring to his affair. The letter is believed to have been sent by Gonzalez-Angulo as an attempt to break up the couple because she wanted to have a child with Blumenschein, who was trying to have a child with Toney. However, Blumenschein kept his suspicions to himself.

During the trial, he said he feared Gonzalez-Angulo because she had told him that in the past she had paid hit men in her native Colombia to kill criminals who had assaulted her family. “The defendant told me that she had had people executed in Colombia and I was kind of stunned when I heard that. I kind of kept that in the back of my mind,” said Blumenschein. Matters became even more peculiar when, in December 2012, the oncologist told her lover that she had been attacked by a couple who had lured her out of her townhouse, stomped on her face, kicked her in the abdomen, and told her that she would never have Blumenschein’s child. She told him that she wasn’t going to report the incident to the police, but would rather bring bodyguards from Colombia. Blumenschein said Gonzalez-Angulo did not have any bruises until days later, when he coerced her to report the alleged beating to the police.

The series of events culminated on January 27, 2013, when Blumenschein and Gonzalez-Angulo were at her home. That morning, they had sex and shared a shot of vodka, and she made him a cup of “special Colombian coffee.” He told the jury that the coffee had an “odd taste” and questioned the brew because it tasted sweet. She assured him that the coffee contained Splenda, an artificial sweetener. He testified that he couldn’t finish the cup because it was “sickeningly sweet.” Within 4 hours, Blumenschein experienced slurred speech, poor balance, and a loss of fine motor skills. Later that day, he was rushed to a hospital emergency department and was diagnosed with central nervous system depression, cardiopulmonary complications, and renal failure. He survived the poisoning, but reportedly has only about 40% of his kidney function remaining. “The condition that I have now puts me at increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and I can’t take certain medications. My lifespan has been shortened,” Blumenschein said.

During the trial, defense attorneys pleaded with jurors to consider probation, arguing that she deserved leniency for spending her life saving the lives of others. “The sum of a human being’s life should not be judged by one event,” attorney Derek Hollingsworth told jurors in closing arguments. “It’s not the right result to send her to prison for a lengthy amount of time.”

Multiple patients also testified in support of Gonzalez-Angulo, saying she was an outstanding and compassionate doctor. “She saved my life, and I always felt like she would save a whole lot of lives,” said patient Silvia Lieber, who considers the oncologist a friend and a sister.

Jurors deliberated for about 3 and a half hours before deciding on the 10-year prison sentence, which includes a $10,000 fine. “A big thing in this case is the premeditation, when you look at the whole picture,” Harris County Assistant District Attorney Nathan Hennigan said after the sentencing. “It was clear that this was planned and it wasn’t just a one-off decision.”

Reference

  1. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc., F.A.C.P. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center website. http://faculty.mdanderson.org/Ana_Gonzalez-Angulo.
  2. Golgowski N. Texas doctor sentenced to 10 years in prison for poisoning ex-lover’s coffee. New York Daily News website. September 29, 2014. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/texas-doctor-sentenced-poisoning-ex-lover-coffee-article-1.1957034.
  3. Mulcahy N. Oncologist sentenced to 10 years for poisoning colleague. Medscape website. September 29, 2014. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/832510.
  4. Rogers B. Doctor gets 10 years for poisoning lover. Houston Chronicle website. September 29, 2014. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Doctor-get-10-years-for-poisoning-lover-5789393.php.