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The Doctor's Wife

It looked like a suicide, this death of a prominent doctor. But then, when investigators look into his wife's past, they notice some disturbing trends. Could there have been more to their whirlwind romance than met the eye?
/ Source: Dateline NBC

DENNIS MURPHY reporting: (Voiceover) Maybe there are some people who should just come with warning labels.

(Spider web; photo of Dante Sutorius; spider in web; photo of Dante)

Ms. APHRODITE JONES (Investigation Discovery’s “True Crime with Aphrodite Jones”): This is a woman who spent her life playing the damsel in distress and, for most part, was able to fool and dupe every man who came across her path.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But then so few of the men bothered to read the fine print on this particular woman, to their peril.

(Photo of Dante; photo of Dante and Darryl Sutorius kissing; photos of Dante; glass shattering; gun; crime scene photos)

Mr. GRANT BASSETT: I’m frightened of her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Why even her baby sister agreed with the people who called her that nasty name, black widow. She’d gotten tangled in the web herself.

(Home video of Dante and Donna as children; photo of Dante; spider in web; Donna)

DONNA: She was just so obsessed with murders. She was practicing. Her whole life was practice for the grand finale.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) You’ll just have to decide for yourself about Dante Sutorius, the pretty doctor’s wife with a cultured eye for the fine things in life.

(Spider in web; photo of Dante; knife; photo of Dante; photos of Darryl and Dante; candles)

Ms. DANTE SUTORIUS: I love antiques.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Or was Dante really someone else?

(Photo of Dane and Darryl; photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: There was something phony about her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The name was certainly embellished. Dante was born Della, but few people would know her biographical details until after a shot rang out in the middle of the night in the basement of a nice house in a moneyed Cincinnati suburb. That’s where Dr. Darryl Sutorius, her husband of 11 months, lay dead. To arriving officer Lloyd Zellner, it looked like a suicide by an overworked, overstressed, overweight surgeon.

(Photos of Dante; flames; photos of Dante; tree; dark screen; house at night; window; house; kitchen; piano; crime scene photos; photo of Darryl; crime scene photos; photo of Darryl)

Mr. LLOYD ZELLNER: There was a gunshot wound to the head, a gun laying on the floor. He was laying on the couch.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) How had the doctor reached such a state of despair? There was so much in the last months of his life still to untangle as Darryl Sutorius’s family gathered to bury him. The doctor had been a successful Cincinnati heart surgeon, a patron of the arts, the father of four. But he was also a lonely man who struggled with depression after the breakup of his marriage of 30 years.

(Church; photo of Darryl; memorial; photos of Darryl with family; photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: (Funeral) You know I will always love you.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Deborah, Dr. Darryl Sutorius’s oldest child, remembers how sadly adrift her father seemed to be in his last years. She found herself comforting him as though she’d become the parent and he the child.

(Deborah at Darryl’s funeral; photo of Deborah and Darryl)

MURPHY: After the breakup with the family, Deborah, did you see him becoming depressed?

DEBORAH: Yeah. Yeah, I remember once sitting down...

(Voiceover) the table with him in his new place, and he was crying.

(Photo of Darryl and Deborah)

DEBORAH: And he was just, you know, ‘What have I done? What did I lose?’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl had initiated the breakup, but the trauma and the reality of the divorce sent him adrift and put some distance between him and his children as he wrestled with life as a single man in his early 50s. The busy doctor delegated a dating service, Great Expectations, to find a new woman to be his companion.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl, Deborah and siblings; photo of Darryl; Great Expectations dating service)

DEBORAH: Dad was just looking for someone to share his life with. He wasn’t looking for another love of his life, I don’t think, you know. He was just looking for someone...

(Voiceover) ...who would go out to dinner with him and keep him company and go on his boat...

(Photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: ...enjoy the theater and, you know, the nicer things in life that he enjoyed. He wanted just someone to share it with.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Someone else was looking for a new partner. And when the matchmaker from the Great Expectations dating service showed Dante the doctor’s picture, she was interested.

(Roses; photo of Dante; dating profile; photo of Dante; photo of Darryl)

Ms. SUTORIUS: (Voiceover) He looked nice.

(Photo of Darryl)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He looked kind.

(Voiceover) And our interests were similar. He liked the theater.

(Photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl and Dante met in October of 1994, and by Valentine’s Day the following February he’d asked her to marry, and she’d said yes.

(Photo of Darryl and Dante; wedding photo of Darryl and Dante kissing)

DEBORAH: She seemed to be willing to spend her time with him, and that was good enough for him at that point. He was so scared of being alone.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) They honeymooned at Hilton Head. But in the bedroom, there were problems right from the start.

(Sunlight through trees; sunset)

Ms. SUTORIUS: (Voiceover) The first night there...

(Sunset on water)

Ms. SUTORIUS: ...he told me he was going to sleep downstairs because we’d had a long trip, and I was tired.

(Voiceover) And so he’d just kind of tucked me in...

(Reflection of trees and sun on water; waves)

Ms. SUTORIUS: ...and gave me a kiss on the forehead and left.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) She says Darryl hadn’t told her that he was impotent and would need an injection before making love.

(Roses; photo of Darryl and Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: (Voiceover) I understood Darryl had a big ego. He told me that he didn’t think I would marry him if he told me. I wish he had told me...

(Photo of Darryl and Dante; roses; photo of Darryl and Dante kissing)

Ms. SUTORIUS: ...and I would have married him anyway because he loved me.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) A rocky start for Dante. But when the couple got back to Cincinnati, they threw themselves into setting up a dream house in an enviable suburb.

(View from bridge; bridge; Cincinnati skyline; house)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I thought I had found the right person. He loved me. Everything was terrific.

(Voiceover) He paid a lot of attention to me. He pampered me.

(Roses; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But Darryl, even making $300,000 a year, was stretched paying the bills of his first family: over $5,000 a month in alimony to his first wife, children with college tuition, and now all the costs associated with setting up a new household. Dante says he constantly complained about the mushrooming credit card bills.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl with his children; photo of Darryl and woman; photo of Darryl and Deborah; house; chandelier; dining room; check book; credit card)

Ms. SUTORIUS: It turned out we were having financial troubles. I didn’t know because he never told me anything about the finances.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl’s stress showed up in the hospital where his always stern professional manner, one he’d been rebuked for by his hospital board, had slipped into almost constant surliness.

(Hospital; operating room; people walking in hospital hallway)

Ms. SUTORIUS: (Voiceover) He was abrupt with people.

(People walking in hospital hallway)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He was mean. He was insulting, and he didn’t care if there were a roomful of people listening. He would yell at the nurses and insult them and tell them they’re stupid, tell them they’re incompetent.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The younger surgeons with their more advanced technical skills in open-heart procedures were, he thought, overtaking him. He was in a typhoon of a midlife crisis.

(Doctors in operating room; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: We weren’t talking about passing moods here, huh?


MURPHY: Was his continued depression the time that you approached him and said, ‘Look, I think we need to talk about some therapy here?’

Ms. SUTORIUS: I had been telling him that from the beginning. Nothing would make him smile. He’d cry very easily. And right, you know, I knew—I knew there was something wrong with him.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante played a tough hand. She would give him the silent treatment until he acknowledged the desperation of his emotional state.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: (Voiceover) Darryl hated, with a passion, to be alone...

(Photo of Darryl)

Ms. SUTORIUS: ...and I would go, as soon as he came home, I wouldn’t say anything. I’d go to my room. I was determined—there was no other way to get him to see a psychiatrist, and he definitely needed to see someone.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl finally agreed to see Dr. Louis Spitz, who Dante says talked with him, among other things, about the extreme grief caused by  the breakup of his first marriage.

MURPHY: In the meeting with Dr. Spitz, the psychiatrist...

Ms. SUTORIUS: Mm-hmm.

MURPHY: ...Darryl is saying he had considered suicide...

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: ...after the unhappy divorce with his first wife.

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl began taking prescribed antidepressant medication.

(Pill bottle and pills)

MURPHY: This is a man who’s diagnosed clinically depressed.

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: Taking medication for it.

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: Showing abusive anger...

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: ...with his colleagues.

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right. And me.

MURPHY: Drinking too much?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Oh, way too much.

MURPHY: Humiliated by impotence?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: Unhappy relationship with the family?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: It’s a bundle of problems for one guy to carry.

Mr. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) On a Sunday morning in February, about 2:30 AM, a shot rang out. Darryl was found on his couch, a glass of wine on the table before him and a handgun by his slumped body. Calls went out to the family. Deborah’s fiance answered the phone.

(House at night; lighted window; window; crime scene photos; house; Deborah)

DEBORAH: My heart started pounding and I got up out of my chair and I was going to leave. I don’t know where I was going. I was just going to leave, and then I just stopped, and I said, ‘She killed him.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Could Darryl’s daughter be right? Who was the doctor’s new bride? According to her sister, clearly not someone you’d want to cross.

(Roses; photo of Dante and Darryl; Donna; photo of Dante)

DONNA: (Voiceover) She’s very vindictive and spiteful.

(Photo of Dante)

DONNA: So it’s like that was like, ‘Bingo. If a man does me wrong, I get to burn him up in his sleep.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When The Doctor’s Wife continues.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The new husband was dead in the basement. And the doctor’s widow, Dante Sutorius, had to know that now all the old stories would come bubbling up. Stories not just about the men in her life, but stories about her truly strange disposition.

Ms. JONES: There was something demonic about her even as a child.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Aphrodite Jones wrote a book detailing the complicated past of the woman Della who would become Dante Sutorius.

(“Della’s Web” book by Aphrodite Jones; photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: When she changed her name to Dante it was in order to create a sophisticated person who, in her mind, this is who she was going to be.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) From day one Della seemed determined to escape her middle-class western Ohio roots, even though sister Donna remembers a devoted mother taking meticulous care of her big brood of seven children.

(Home video of Dante pushing stroller; house; home video of Donna and Dante)

DONNA: We had beautiful clothes. My mother starched the pillowcases and the sheets, OK? She took care of everything.

MURPHY: So this is a very 1950s family.

DONNA: Yeah, it was just normal. Everything was normal, except Della.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) For as long as Donna can remember, Della was a force to be reckoned with.

(Photo of Donna and Dante as children)

DONNA: With Della there’s always something underlying. Everything could be fun, but...(snaps fingers)...she’d switch on you.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Donna says that even though her pretty sister fancied herself a dimpled child star like Shirley Temple, cute, sweet and innocent looking in her frilly dresses, the real Della, even at seven years old, could be absolutely terrifying.

(Photos of Dante as a child)

DONNA: She used to do weird things. She used to threaten.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And while childhood memories can be fuzzy, Donna remembers threats that involved sharp objects, knives, nail files and even  scissors dangled over their mother’s neck while she slept.

(Donna; knife, nail file, scissors)

DONNA: I can see it plain as day. She stood over my mother with the scissors right back here and then she’d come and tell me, ‘If you don’t do everything I say, I’m going to kill her. All I have to do is stick those scissors in her  neck, and she’s dead.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Donna says she endured years of torment at her sister’s hand. Della would even taunt her with the idea of killing their baby brother.

(Photos of Dante as a child; house; photo of Donna and Dante as children; home video of woman holding baby)

DONNA: She was obsessed with killing. She threatened to kill the baby and snap his neck if I didn’t clean up the room.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But the sister found there was no use telling on Della. Her mother didn’t have the stomach for such wild, almost impossible to verify, stories.

(Photo of Dante as a child)

DONNA: She listened sometimes, but then she’d look at Della and I could see Della’s face melt into the sweet little Shirley Temple girl.

MURPHY: Are you the only person in the house, Donna, that knows that Della is a very disturbed child?

DONNA: No. Everybody knows she’s disturbed, but they don’t know to what depths.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Gradually Donna says it dawned on the family that Della had a problem. To try to get her on the right path, they put Della in an exclusive private school. She ended up dropping out, never graduating high school. But she did pick up some useful tips, things that would serve her well later on in life.

(Photos of Dante; outside school; statue in front of school; photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: She did learn how to be the delicate debutante. She utilized that later on in portraying herself as the sophisticated lady.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) With her good looks and Catholic school manners, Della never seemed to have a problem finding a date. At 19 she ended up getting pregnant. She married the baby’s father and he, says Jones, would be the first in a long line of men to suffer Della’s cruelty.

(Photo of Dante; photo of Dante with a man; photos of Dante)

Ms. JONES: It didn’t last long at all. But I wouldn’t call it a typical marriage in that this is a woman who abused and literally was accountable for terrorizing men in her life.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) In the divorce that followed, there was a bitter custody fight and eventually the little girl went to live with her father.

(Photo of Dante and man; stuffed bear; baby nursery; rocking horse)

DONNA: Della’s not a mother. Della had a baby. Della is not a mother.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But she did become a wife again.

(Photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: These are early people in her life. She is a young, pretty thing, and in essence they want to start a life out with somebody. There is not a sense of, ‘Who are you? What’s your past?’ So it was easy for her to dupe these people and not have a lot of explaining to do. (Voiceover) She was good at, ‘Look, I’m me. I’m a prize and you are the king of the universe.

(Photo of Dante)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But marriage number two soon cratered as well. After the divorce, Della had a string of boyfriends but none of those relationships ended well either.

(Hand dropping ring; red rose; photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: Everyone had a bad time with Dante because, at the end of the day, this is a woman who couldn’t be satisfied no matter what you did for her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) One former boyfriend suspected she was behind a mysterious fire that partially destroyed his house.

(Flames from fire; photo of Dante; flames from fire)

DONNA: The movie “The Burning Bed” came out, and she was just enthralled. She was very vindictive and spiteful. So it’s like that was, like, ‘Bingo. If a man does me wrong, I get to burn him up in his sleep.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Another unfortunate boyfriend was convinced that after an argument she’d set his bed on fire.

(Spider in web; photo of Dante; flames from fire)

Ms. JONES: The man wakes up, his bed’s on fire. Luckily he woke up. He woke up and he had to literally put his own bed out, and she was nowhere to be found. And he forgave her.

MURPHY: I don’t get it. He doesn’t double lock the door, he doesn’t get the car keys and get out of there.

Ms. JONES: Because she was adept at insisting it couldn’t have been her. Something happened, but it wasn’t her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But there came a point when Della knew she needed a change of scene, somewhere where she could start fresh, someplace where they’d appreciate her blonde good looks. Somewhere like Hollywood. Sister Donna’s phone rang.

(Photo of Dante; roses; car on road; photo of Dante; flowers; palm trees; car; palm trees; mannequin in store window; stores; woman in high heels; stores; palm trees; photo of Dante; Hollywood sign; Donna on phone)

DONNA: Underneath, I knew there was something going on, but your sister calls, and you haven’t seen your family in years, and she’s coming to visit, and it’s like, ‘Oh, great.’ She was still Della.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But she wasn’t. She was now Dante to every man she met, and there were a lot of them.

(Dante’s drivers license; buildings)

DONNA: Every week it was a different guy. You know, it was, ‘Oh, I found the man of my life.’ And then the next week she got another man of her life.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante, with her new soap opera sounding name, loved Hollywood: the men, the glitter, the stars, the cachet.

(Roses; photo of Dante; Hollywood stores)

DONNA: It was supposed to be like a two week visit. It turned into months.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante quickly became the house guest from hell.

(Photo of Dante)

DONNA: She did nothing.

MURPHY: So she’s not divvying up the chores, helping you with household money?

DONNA: Not doing a thing.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Donna kicked her sister out. And while Dante stayed on in California, she eventually headed back home to Cincinnati and into the arms of Grant Bassett, who would become husband number three.

(Photo of Dante; palm tree lined street; vehicles on road; bus; lamp post; building; Grant Bassett)

Mr. BASSETT: She was from LA but didn’t flaunt it. You know, she had done the life in LA and—but she kept that very mysterious.

MURPHY: Nicely groomed? Nicely dressed?

Mr. BASSETT: Absolutely. Yeah.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Grant fell hard for the pretty blonde California girl with the pouty mouth. She was everything a guy could want, wasn’t she? Until he discovered what he says were his new wife’s strange reading habits.

(Photo of Dante; Bassett looking out window; photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: My hand hit the floor, hit the newspaper. The newspaper was lumpy under it.

(Voiceover) It was a 12-inch knife.

(Knife)MURPHY: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Grant Bassett, lonely guy graphics designer, found he could not stop eyeing the petite babe having drinks in the after-work bar beneath his Cincinnati office building. He introduced himself.

(Title graphic; Bassett; photo of Dante; lights)

MURPHY: Those first weeks, did you find yourself falling for her?

Mr. BASSETT: Oh, yes, absolutely. Yeah.

MURPHY: Did she ever tell you stories about previous husbands, older boyfriends?

Mr. BASSETT: No. She never did. She said she dated certain guys in California, some guys in California, not certain—anything certain about them.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The woman without a past was quickly becoming Grant Bassett’s future. They had been dating for only a few months when Grant landed a new job in Dallas.

(Photo of Dante; roses; Dallas)

Mr. BASSETT: She said, ‘What will I do if you’re gone? As luck has it, I just meet a guy and now he’s got to move away to Dallas, Texas, and all that.’

And I just, you know, without even thinking, said, ‘Well, why don’t you come along. I’m just going for a few...’

MURPHY: You must have been happy with her, though, huh?

Mr. BASSETT: Oh, absolutely happy, sure.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But they’d only been together in Dallas a few days when Grant saw the first signs of trouble. He came home to tell Dante the good news that one of his colleagues had offered to help her find a job.

(Photo of Dante; Dallas; Bassett walking)

Mr. BASSETT: She went ballistic, first time. ‘Who do you think you are, moving my life around, tell me what I’m going to do, what I’m not going to do?’ Stomp off, find some room, slam the door.

MURPHY: This is a flip-a-switch moment, huh?

Mr. BASSETT: Oh, yeah.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The fun, pretty, up for anything party girl he’d met in the Cincinnati bar was slowly, steadily morphing into someone else entirely.

(Photo of Dante; flashing lights; photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: Just explosions of temper, both physical as well as just trying to play mental games.

MURPHY: So you’re telling me that this woman that you’ve taken to Dallas is not at all like the woman that you met in Cincinnati?

Mr. BASSETT: Correct. That’s correct.

MURPHY: Different person?

Mr. BASSETT: The way she got upset, the displays that she put on, the threats that she made were just getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And, Grant says, more dangerous. He was finding he had no idea what would light Dante’s fuse. While he tried to keep her happy by taking her shopping at the Dallas malls, she was never satisfied with what she bought.

(Photo of Dante; Bassett; clocks; jewelry; purses; photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: I was coming home with her this one night, and she was drinking a Coke, bottled Coke. I’m going down the highway and I said, ‘Dante, why do you always take stuff back?’ Wrong thing to say. The car went quiet. The bottle was in a plastic bag, and she started whaling me with that bottle at 65 miles an hour...

(Voiceover) ...going down the highway.

(Cars on highway at night)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) She’s whacking you in the head with glass bottle?

(Cars on highway at night)

Mr. BASSETT: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Anything she can whack me with, glass...

MURPHY: So this isn’t a goofing around kind of thing?


MURPHY: (Voiceover) But that was just the beginning. A few weeks later, Grant was watching television when Dante name dropped that she knew Norman Lear, the famous television producer, from her Hollywood days.

(Photo of Dante; Bassett; photo of “All in the Family” cast; photo of “Maude” cast)

Mr. BASSETT: All of a sudden she just lights up and says, ‘You know, you don’t believe me that thing about Mr. Lear, but that’s absolutely true, and you’re just a jerk, you’re just a dummy, you’re just’—and she starts whacking me. So I said, ‘OK.’ Count to 10. 911.

MURPHY: You’re calling the cops on her?

Mr. BASSETT: Knock, knock, knock at the door. Here’s two of Dallas’ finest standing at the door. One takes me outside to talk to me, the other one stays inside. The door opens and the policeman inside says, ‘Could you come in here, Mr. Bassett?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Could you put your cigarette out?’ ‘Yeah, OK.

Yeah.’ ‘Well, you’re under arrest.’ I get arrested. I go to jail.

MURPHY: You went to jail?

Mr. BASSETT: Oh, yeah.

MURPHY: She accused you of what?

Mr. BASSETT: Beating her up. And what she had done was—I had seen her do it once—she was beating her arm against the crevice on the corner of the apartment.

MURPHY: Giving herself bruises.

Mr. BASSETT: Exactly. She plays you like a fiddle. She had that cop totally wrapped around her finger.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Grant got himself out of jail. But did he put Dante in his rearview mirror? He did not. He went right back home where Dante announced that she had some news.

(Bassett; rose petals falling; photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: Bingo. ‘I’m pregnant.’ Oh, boy. You go a couple days with that, ‘What do you think about getting married?’ ‘Sure, we’ll do the right thing.’ Da, da, da, da, da, da. We get married. OK.

MURPHY: Ceremony?

Mr. BASSETT: Ceremony, justice of peace, police station, same place I got locked up.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But almost as soon as they were married, Dante told him she had lost the baby.

(Photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: I was the—the guy that figured do the right thing, and blah, blah, blah, the puppy dog, whatever you want to call it.

MURPHY: But it’s your belief she was lying when she said she was pregnant?

Mr. BASSETT: Oh, yeah.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Not a great start for newlyweds. And the hint of even more trouble ahead came when Dante hawked her wedding ring to pay for a facelift, and then, Grant says, had an affair with her plastic surgeon.

(Roses; photo of Dante; rings; photo of facelift procedure)

Mr. BASSETT: And I had all intentions of just letting this guy have it, and a funny thing happened. When he got on the—got on the phone, I said, ‘Be careful, watch out, you’re dealing with a rocket ship.’

MURPHY: Take it from a guy who knows, huh?

Mr. BASSETT: I thought, gee, you know, I wished somebody would have done that for me. I wouldn’t be in this pickle barrel.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But in it he was, in deep. Dante’s behavior, he says, kept getting more and more bizarre. After falling asleep on the couch one night, he says he woke to find Dante staring at him.

(Bassett; photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: And she said, ‘Why don’t you put a towel under your head? You’re going to drool all over that couch and ruin it, you jerk.’ Turns around and walks away. I rolled over. My hand hit the floor, hit the newspaper. The newspaper was lumpy.

(Voiceover) Under it was a 12-inch knife.


MURPHY: And there she is looking all “Blair Witch,” huh?


Mr. BASSETT: And hour, two hours went by. There she’s standing there again. Woke up the next morning, and on the floor... (Voiceover) ...another eight-inch knife. So I’m finding knives around the


(Knife with reflection of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: Now I’m in big trouble.

MURPHY: You got to get your car keys and get out of there. How come you don’t?

Mr. BASSETT: No. At this point in time I know that this lady will light up over anything. She’ll go nuts. There’s a meanness that is unbelievable.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Grant says Dante was mean just for the sport in it.

(Photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: One night that I had said, you know, ‘I’m going to clean the kitchen floor.’ She went in there, and in four different sessions, emptied liters of bottles of pop on the floor. Just poured it, maybe a half a bottle. Went back in. You could hear her giggling.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But more chilling than the tantrums, he says, were the threats.

(Knife with reflection of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: Some of the most famous quotes are, ‘You know, I could murder you and there is not a thing anybody would do. The world would be a much better place without you, as a matter of fact.’

MURPHY: This is not said in a joking way.

Mr. BASSETT: No. But beyond that, ‘If it went that far and I were to get arrested, I could play a judge like a fiddle. I could play a jury if it, even had to come to that because I’d work the cops first.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Grant believed she could pull it off. She’d put him in jail once. He’d seen the knives on the floor while he slept. He started to spin an escape plan.

(Photo of Dante; jail cell doors closing; knife; moon)

Mr. BASSETT: I was going to leave now the Dallas office and go to the Washington office. That’s how bad it had gotten.

MURPHY: How about calling a divorce lawyer?

Mr. BASSETT: No. That was not in mind. That was not in my mind.

MURPHY: Why not?

Mr. BASSETT: I just wanted to get space between us and then I would maybe think that through. She got my attention, scared the living hell out of me. A very, very, very, very scary person.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Grant went to Washington for the interview for the new

job. When he returned, Dante, his furniture and most of his personal

belongings, he says, were nowhere to be found.

(Flags; building at night; man walking in hallway; Bassett; photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: She had emptied the bank account.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Grant, happy to escape with his life, put whatever she’d left behind in his car and tried not to look back. But he didn’t think that Dante was done with men or marriage.

(Clouds; roadway; spider in web; photo of Dante)

Mr. BASSETT: This was not her crescendo. No way. Unh-unh. No.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Soon Dante would become a doctor’s wife, moving on up.

Coming up, a doctor in love.

(Roses; photo of Dante and Darryl kissing)

Ms. JONES: He was completely smitten by her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) That was his first mistake.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: She was relentless. Really, honestly, a fatal attraction.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When The Doctor’s Wife continues.

Ms. JONES: She was relentless. Really, honestly, a fatal attraction.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) A woman on a mission with no time to spare. The soon to be former Dante Bassett was headed back home to Cincinnati. She needed a new man fast. Out came the war paint.

(Photo of Dante; view from car window; view of Cincinnati from car crossing bridge; roses; photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: (Voiceover) One thing she was good at was making herself look good.

(Photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: Hairpieces, false eyelashes, false nails, it was like she glued herself together. When it came to her looks, that was paramount. (Voiceover) It didn’t matter what it took. She would get the money.

(Photo of Dante)

Ms. JONES: She would find the way to make sure that her looks were immaculate.

MURPHY: And it worked.

Ms. JONES: It did work. It worked for every man she ever met. They all fell for this beautiful, petite woman who needed help, who had something to offer in the bedroom, and who could supply them with a good time.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And before long, there was a husband number four, a British-born computer specialist. Once again, according to his account, the same pattern started all over again. . The blowout fights, the cops on speed dial, the zero balance bank account, the threats to kill him, until husband number four had had enough.

(Photo of Dante and a man; glass shattering; cars on road; Dante; photo of Dante and a man)

Ms. JONES: It’s almost a system by now. Anyone that she had an actual wedding with, she looted completely.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But the Dante playbook was starting to fray. She was in her early 40s. She didn’t have a job and the meager payouts from her former husbands were all but gone.

(Photos of Dante)

Ms. JONES: Oddly enough, it wasn’t until she met Darryl Sutorius that she actually hit or struck gold.

(Voiceover) This was her lottery ticket. This was her ticket out of the low-life and into the high-life.

(Roses; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And husband number five, Darryl Sutorius, was going to give her that high-life. The beautiful home, the trendy neighborhood, the Jaguar, the Lexus, the clothes, the vacations. The woman he met at the dating service was the girl of his dreams.

(Roses; photos of Darryl; photo of Dante; home; Jaguar; Lexus; clothes; sunset; palm trees; birds; plants; clouds; photo of Darryl and Dante kissing)

Ms. JONES: (Voiceover) He bought the package.

(Photo of Darryl and Dante kissing)

Ms. JONES: And the package was a beautiful woman, been married before, living off of her past husbands’ alimony, lovely damsel who needs somebody to, you know, take—have a companion and go off into the sunset with. He bought that package. He was completely smitten by her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Dante was taken with her doctor. Ask her, just as we did when we interviewed her in 1998. When you hear Dante tell the story of her life, as you’re about to, the story of the husbands, the explosive fights with boyfriends, the drama, she’ll implore you not to believe anyone but her.

As she tells it, she’s no different than a lot of women. She’s just had lousy luck in love; multiple husbands, lots of boyfriends, but no one to call her soulmate.

(Roses; photo of Darryl; photo of Dante; photo of a young Dante; Dante; roses; rose petals falling; photo of Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: A whole lot of bad luck. A lot of bad judgment on my part. I made a whole lot of bad choices.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Dante blames her poor choices on her mother. She wasn’t the family tormenter, as her sister Donna would have it. Donna, she says, can’t be believed, as she was once in a mental health facility. Donna says it was a brief stay after the death of one of her children from a sudden illness. In any case, although her mother has denied any abuse whatsoever, Della says she left her with lasting emotional scars.

(Photo of Dante as a child; home video of Dante pushing stroller; home video of Dante and Donna; Donna; photo of child; Dante; photo of Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I wanted someone to make up—someone to love me enough to make up for all the hatred, my mother, you know. All that that I’d had the first 20 years of my life, I wanted someone to make up for that. No man can do that.

MURPHY: When your own mother and your own sisters say, ‘This woman is very bad news, a dangerous, manipulative woman,’ what are we to make of that?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Donna I can forgive. Donna can’t help what she says or does. But my mother, I would have expected nothing else from my mother.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Dante says the men in her life, former husbands and boyfriends, often with her mother’s behind-the-scene pot stirring, had ganged up on her.

(Photos of Dante and men)

MURPHY: What are we to make of that? Kind of getting into these men’s lives quickly, getting the money that you could and then...

Ms. SUTORIUS: None of them had money.

MURPHY: But taken together, they tell these stories about you with knives, threatening them with guns.

Ms. SUTORIUS: But they’re—husbands said that about the knives. He came early and I wasn’t ready for him. I’d been opening boxes. That’s it. That’s all that was. I shoved everything underneath the sofa.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But what about the boyfriend who said she tried to set him on fire with a kerosene lamp he kept next to his bed?

(Flames from fire)

MURPHY: Did you try and burn him in his bed?

Ms. SUTORIUS: No. He’d simply knocked it over.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And then there was the boyfriend whose house caught fire. Could it have been her?

(Flames from fire; Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: When he couldn’t figure out anything else that had happened, he said I paid someone to do it. And some friends of mine owned a few nightclubs. So he said—he said, ‘Well, they’re in with the mafia.’ I said, ‘Where would I get money to pay anyone? I don’t have any money. How would I do this? They just did it because, you know, they like me, I’m cute?’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) In the end, Dante said she was happy overall to be rid of all those good for nothing men. But the breakup with husband number four had unexpectedly taken the stuffing out of her.

(Roses; photo of Dante; photo of Dante with man)

Ms. SUTORIUS: Usually I was the one doing the leaving, and so I went into a depression. I was so depressed. I didn’t do anything for about six weeks. I stayed on the sofa and cried a lot. And then I joined the Friends of the Arts, and someone talked me into joining a dating service.

MURPHY: Here you’d had four failed relationships. I mean, why not just take a period of time for yourself?

Ms. SUTORIUS: I always thought somewhere out there someone was going to love me. I just hadn’t found him yet.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And she just had to find him. She knew she didn’t need a matchmaking service. But after 20 years of Mr. Wrong, maybe she thought it was time to change approach. Dante went to the dating service Great Expectations.

(Shadow of couple; Dante; Great Expectations dating service)

Ms. SUTORIUS: You go in and you look through the books, the files, and you read all about them, what their interests are and see if you’re compatible.

On the other side are their photos. I was looking through it one day, and one of the people going through it said, you know, ‘Dante, I’ve got a, you know, the man for you. I’ve got someone.’ And then she said—kind of said the magic word. She said, ‘He would love you.’ She said, ‘He will really love you.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Bingo, a doctor even. Their first date was at the Bankers Club.

(Photo of Darryl; table at restaurant)

Ms. SUTORIUS: Our interests, you know, were similar. He liked the theater.

MURPHY: And he was a successful surgeon.

Ms. SUTORIUS: Right.

MURPHY: Good position in society.

Ms. SUTORIUS: So obviously he was intelligent. Right.

MURPHY: Respected member of the community and making good money.

Ms. SUTORIUS: Mm-hmm. And I tend to go for the intellectual type, so he obviously was.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) It wasn’t fireworks, but then Dante was looking for something more secure, more steady this time.

(Roses; photo of Darryl; photo of Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He paid a lot of attention to me, and he was very well mannered. He was very intelligent. So I liked those things. I felt safe with him.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And he felt safe with her. Was he right? Coming up, love may be blind, but the doctor’s daughter wasn’t.

(Roses; photo of Darryl and Dante; wine glasses; photo of Darryl and Dante; Deborah)

DEBORAH: He was very vulnerable, and she just took advantage of that like a pro. I just didn’t like her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Too bad the doctor didn’t listen, when DATELINE continues.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The thrill had gone for Dr. Darryl Sutorius. After 30 years, he was walking away from his marriage. And there was certainly nothing his daughter Deborah could do but watch her family fall apart.

(Title graphic; photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl with family; photo of Deborah and Darryl)

DEBORAH: Once he got out of the house, I think he saw what he had. I mean, you know, beautiful wife and four kids and, you know, a nice house. And I mean, we had everything.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But for Darryl, everything wasn’t enough anymore. The marriage had fizzled. He’d wanted to start a new chapter in his life. But once he did, he wondered if the price he paid for it had been too high.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl and woman; photos of Darryl)

DEBORAH: I think he wondered why he left sometimes. He was—he always said he was trying to be happy. But I think when he left, he told me that his happiest times were at home with us and that he wished he had spent more time there.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl wanted a do-over, but it was too late for a reset.

(Photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: We were sitting in the kitchen and we were talking, and he started crying.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) So he really seemed kind of adrift and lost a little bit?

(Photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: Yeah, he did.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl had become lonely guy surgeon. He was in his early 50s, a little bit overweight, and truly clueless about how to start dating after 30 years off the chase.

(Photos of Darryl)

DEBORAH: I didn’t want him to be with anyone but my mom, and I know that there wasn’t any woman that he could find that would be better than my mom. But I was an adult at the time. And he obviously needed me more than I needed to say, you know, ‘Hey, Dad, I don’t want to hear this.’ So I listened, but it was strange.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl had quickly rebounded into a relationship with a younger woman, but it soon fell apart. More distraught than ever, he signed up for Great Expectations, a dating service, determined to find a more appropriate match.

(Photos of Darryl; Great Expectations dating service; photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: He considered that, you know, because they talk about screening. He was also concerned with finding an intelligent and, you know, well bred person.

MURPHY: Why do you think he went to the dating service? I can’t quite figure that out.

DEBORAH: I don’t know. Honestly, it’s an embarrassment.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But Darryl wasn’t going to let pride stand in his way of finding just the right person to spend his life with. He showed Deborah the picture of the woman Great Expectations had selected to be his date. Her name was Dante.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: Her picture wasn’t very nice. She kind of had a mean look on her face.

(Voiceover) But I thought maybe it was a bad picture. And I was, like, ‘Well, you know, OK, Dad, whatever.’

(Photo of Dante)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But Darryl, on the other hand, loved the way she looked. He couldn’t wait to tell Deborah about the candlelit dinner they had together at the Bankers Club.

(Photo of Dante; photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: He said, ‘She likes art.’ And I said, ‘Oh, is she an artist?’ And he said, ‘No, she just likes art.’ I said, ‘Well, what does she do?’ And he said, ‘Well, she doesn’t really do anything. She’s just company.’ I said, ‘Does she have a job?’ And he said, ‘No, not really. She likes to decorate.’ And I said, ‘Well, she’s a designer.’ And he said, ‘No, she doesn’t do anything. Just company.’ And I was, like, ‘OK.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) If Deborah had her doubts, Darryl had none. He wanted his daughter to meet this new woman in his life. He arranged to take them all to a restaurant.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl and Deborah; wine glasses)

DEBORAH: (Voiceover) She talked about she had graduated from UCLA and that, you know, she could read people like a book.

(Photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: And she just was talking about herself so much. And I was just kind of, like, ‘Brother.’

MURPHY: Who was this woman, huh?


MURPHY: Was she flirtatious with your father?

DEBORAH: Not at all. She was very cold and very prim and proper and drinking her wine and...

MURPHY: Putting on airs, you think?

DEBORAH: Oh, definitely. Big airs. There was something phony about her. I, you know, as a woman, you just kind of pick up on those things sometimes, I think. And I caught that. You know, her laugh was really fake. I just didn’t like her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But dinner wasn’t over. Dad had a surprise.

(Photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: I noticed she had a ring on her finger, and then he told me they were getting married the next week, and I had to leave the table.

MURPHY: That was a shock, huh?

DEBORAH: Oh, yeah.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) He and Dante had been dating for only four months, but they were getting married the very next week. Deborah thought her father, wallowing in the midst of a massive midlife crisis, was making a huge mistake.

(Roses; photos of Darryl; photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: He thought that he was going to be alone forever. He was very vulnerable, and she just took advantage of that like a pro.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Just days after their honeymoon in Hilton Head, they moved into a big new house Darryl had bought for his bride. But Deborah saw things getting strange from the moment the moving truck showed up. Dante was rifling through all of her father’s stuff.

(Hilton Head; umbrella chairs on beach; people on beach; sunset; mailbox;

golfers; house; photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: She was getting into all of his things, and I didn’t like that. She broke into a trunk of his, like, with a screw driver.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) She also had no plans to share a bedroom with her new husband.

(Photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: Her room was upstairs, which I didn’t mind that they didn’t sleep in the same room.

(Voiceover) That was fine with me. But she had all these locks on her door.

(Key; door lock)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Not your typical newlywed behavior, to be sure. But it was what started to happen next that truly unnerved Deborah.

(Photo of Darryl and Dante; photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: She wouldn’t let him answer the phone. It would always be her.

MURPHY: You couldn’t have private conversation with your father?

DEBORAH: She wouldn’t give him our phone calls. She wouldn’t give him our messages. And then she’d listen in on our phone calls, which I didn’t find out until later when I actually heard her exhale during a conversation. And then later in his office, when I knew I was alone with him, I said, ‘Dad, she was listening in on our phone calls. That’s weird.’ And he said, ‘She always does that.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) By December, nine months into the marriage, Deborah couldn’t take it anymore. As the oldest child, she took on the job of confronting her dad’s new bride.

(Deborah; photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: I called her and confronted her about not letting us have any time alone with my dad and listening in on my phone calls.

MURPHY: What was that confrontation like, Deborah?

DEBORAH: I pretty much just yelled at her, and she taped it.

MURPHY: She taped it?

DEBORAH: Yeah. She taped it and was going to file harassment charges on me.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante, just as she had with her husbands before, was threatening to put her stepdaughter in jail.

(Photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: That’s how she was. She was going to file harassment charges. And my dad said, ‘You need to write her an apology.’ And I said, ‘I’m not going to apologize to her for listening in on my phone calls.’ And he said, ‘Well, she’s going to file harassment charges against you.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl seemed to be completely under Dante’s spell. And when Deborah announced her own engagement at Christmastime, things went from bad to worse.

(Photo of Darryl; Christmas decorations; nutcrackers)

DEBORAH: It really just all snowballed really quickly.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante made it crystal clear that Darryl was to spend no money, no how, on a big wedding.

(Photo of Dante; photo of Darryl and Deborah)

DEBORAH: I think my dad knew at that point that this was going to be a lot of trouble. And I said, ‘Well, Dad, don’t worry about it. I can elope, you know. I don’t care.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But Dante was not appeased. And Deborah wasn’t the only one picking up toxic vapors around her. Deborah says her father’s secretary confided in her that she felt terrorized by the new Mrs. Sutorius.

(Photo of Dante; building)

DEBORAH: She said, ‘Dante’s a very scary person, and I don’t want to get wrapped up in it because I know that she has ruined people’s careers.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When soon after that Deborah saw visible signs of physical violence on her father, she knew that the Dante issue had escalated way past midlife soap opera and was now in a new and scary place.

(Photo of Darryl; roses; photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: And he had scratches on his face. And I said, ‘Dad, what’s wrong with your face?’ And he said, ‘She attacked me for trying to talk with you.’ And that was when he took me into the back room and he said, ‘She has a gun and she’s threatened to kill me. She said she’s killed other people before.’ That was when everything, all of a sudden, within a week’s time I realized that this was really scary.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Things were spinning wildly out of control.

(Photo of Dante)

DEBORAH: (Voiceover) Everything just started to get crazy. I mean, really crazy.

(Photo of Darryl and Dante)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Coming up, two people, one gun. This wasn’t going to end well.

(Photo of Darryl and Dante; gun; house; gun; house; door; gun; mailbox; photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: He said, ‘I’ll see you in court.’ And she said, ‘I’ll see you dead.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When The Doctor’s Wife continues.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Life under the roof of the Sutorius home was coming unglued, and everyone seemed to know it. The big beefy surgeon, the doctor with a reputation of terrifying nurses with so much as a glower, was telling anyone who’d listen that he was shaking in his boots, scared of the pint-sized woman he’d married. Even his daughter Deborah said at first she didn’t entirely get it.

(House exterior at night; photo of Darryl; interior of hospital; photos of Darryl and Dante; flowers; photo of Darryl and Deborah)

DEBORAH: And I was like, how could she be scary? This little blond person, you know. She’s so, you know, and she—and she was even soft-spoken, you know. How could she be scary?

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante, of course, was telling it the other way around. It was she who was scared of her husband’s dark moods, his worsening depression. She thought she’d married a full-on monster who never got past the breakup of his first marriage.

(Dante; photo of Darryl and Dante; photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl and woman)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He told me how, when he was getting divorced before, he had tried to—he sat there with a gun in his hand and debated back and forth  whether to pull the trigger or not. He told me that one. Then he started telling me about another time and I said, ‘I’m really not comfortable with this.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And from Dante’s perspective, things were only made worse by her husband’s children, so happy to cast her as the wicked stepmother. Deborah, in particular, got under her skin.

(Photo of Dante; photo of Sutorius family; photo of Deborah)

Ms. SUTORIUS: Darryl said it bothered her that someone was, you know, going to take her mother’s place, that it really bothered her. So I didn’t exactly trust her.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl, all the while, Dante said, had gone from a moderate drinker to a heavy one.

(Photo of Darryl; wineglass)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He was drinking a lot more. He would—he’d cry. One time I came downstairs, and he was crying.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Dante was certain someone feeding her weepy husband’s misery was none other than her mother. Sooner or later, she says, her mother got to her men and told them venomous stories about her supposed treachery.

Now it had happened again.

(Photo of Darryl; Dante; photo of Dante; flowers)

Ms. SUTORIUS: She called every husband. She tried to ruin every single relationship bad-mouthing me. And I think she bad-mouthed me to the point where she got—she had Darryl.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Whatever Darryl’s personal demons may have been, it was clear Dante and the doctor was a marriage not working out. And still, even with gloom hanging from the ceiling of that house, the crying, the drinking, the two of them, according to Dante, were not talking about throwing in the towel.

(Photo of Darryl; photos of Dante and Darryl; flowers; house exterior at night; photo of Dante; wineglass; photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl and Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: Divorce never came up. He said he still cared about me.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But the war of words—and sometimes the war of silence—she says, was becoming physical.

(Window at night)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He hit me several times. One time he tried to choke me. He just put his hands around my neck.

MURPHY: Did you ever hit him?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Only one time. I—he had me by the tops of my arms, and he was banging me into the countertop and hit my head on a cupboard door. And I had told him, ‘Let go, you’re hurting me.’ I’d already told him, ‘You’re hurting me.’ And I couldn’t get away. He was like 300 pounds and 6’ 4”. He was huge. So I reached up and I scratched him. And I put two scratch marks on this side and one scratch on that side. That was the only time I ever did anything physical to him, but he let go of me.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And another time when it was also starting to turn really ugly, she says, Darryl knocked down her little dog. That lit up all of Dante’s buttons.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Dante)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I threw the pillow on the—on a chair next to him. He said, ‘Don’t start throwing things.’ I said, ‘I threw a pillow. That’s not throwing things. This is throwing things.’ And I wiped off—I swiped off the coffee table, and I broke his glass of scotch. And he jumped up and he had the glass to my face.

MURPHY: In a threatening manner?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Yeah, he pulled my hair back. He had his hand in my hair and pulled my head back, and he had the glass to my face. I just froze.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Dante says it was around this point in their disintegrating marriage that she threatened to go nuclear, to take all their marital woes outside the privacy of their home and let her husband have it where it would hurt the most, at his workplace.

(Photos of Darryl and Dante; flowers; photo of Dante; exterior of house;

mailbox; photo of Darryl; hospital halls; house exterior)

MURPHY: Did you threaten to go to his colleagues, to tell stories about his finances?


MURPHY: Dante, why would you do that?

Ms. SUTORIUS: But it—it was just said in anger. It was just something to get him—I mean, I couldn’t hit him, but I wanted to—I wanted to hurt him the way he was hurting me. You know, I convinced him that I would. I mean, I wouldn’t have, but he thought I would. And it was just something to fight back with.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante had always been prepared to fight back. The petite blonde carried a gun.

(Dante; pistol)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I’d always had a gun, always. My whole adult life, I’ve always had one because of the times I’ve lived alone. I’m pretty much, you know, I’m like 104 pounds and 5’ 2”, and I just felt safe knowing that if someone broke in, I wasn’t totally defenseless.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl, on the other hand, didn’t think his wife should have a gun. So he immediately turned it into the police station. Undeterred, Dante planned to go out and buy a new one. She told her husband to get used to the idea of her having a pistol.

(Photo of Darryl; sheriff’s vehicles; Dante; Target World; pistol)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I told him when he took the last one I was going to replace it. I said, you know, ‘I’ll just have to get another one. I—you’re not going to just leave me there when you don’t set the alarm.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) After the prescribed waiting period, she picked up her new gun at Target World.

(Pistol; receipt for gun)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I was just going to hide it away, just, you know, so I—so I felt safe.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But she says that night, when Darryl found the receipt from the gun store inside her coat pocket, she knew he would end up taking it.

(Inside house at night; receipt for gun; photo of Darryl)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He asked me if I bought a new gun. So I told him yes. And he said, ‘Go get it.’ And, you know, at first I said no, you know, ‘You’re not going to take this with me. You’re not going to leave me totally unprotected.’ And he said, ‘Well, either you go get it or I will.’ So, you know, I said, ‘Oh, he’ll find it.’ So I just went up and I got it.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) By then the doctor’s daughter Deborah knew all about the fights, so painfully evidenced by her father’s scratched-up face.

(Deborah; window; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: Did you say, ‘Dad, I don’t think you should go back to that house’?

DEBORAH: He could always defend himself. He was a big man and he was strong and he, you know, he was my dad. And I never pictured him not having any idea what to do.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But Darryl did know now what he had to do. He told his daughter about his decision.

(Photo of Darryl)

DEBORAH: He had told me at that point that he had planned on divorcing her, but he had told her that, too. And when he told her that, he said, ‘I’ll see you in court.’ And she said, ‘I’ll see you dead.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Ugly talk, a confiscated gun. It was going to be a very long weekend indeed at the unhappy home of Dr. and Mrs. Sutorius.

(Dante; pistol; house exterior)



Up MURPHY: (Voiceover) A weekend that would end with a bang.

(Blood-red moon; house exterior at night)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I remember, in my dream, hearing the noise.

MURPHY: What did it sound like?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Like a door slamming really loud.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante and Darryl weren’t speaking that February weekend, as she remembers it. They’d fought over her insistence on having a gun. Darryl had already taken away one from her, and now he’d made her hand over the .38 she’d picked up that Saturday.

(House exterior at night; photos of Darryl and Dante; flowers; Dante; pistol; photo of Darryl)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I figured in a few days he’ll calm down about it and he’ll give it back.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Till his storm clouds rumbled past, Dante needed some breathing room. Saturday night, she said she decided to go out and have a drink with her girlfriends. But when she swung by the usual haunts, the women weren’t there. She nonetheless could still use a cocktail.

(Photo of Darryl; photo of Dante; darkness; city; bar exterior)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I had a drink at the lounge place because I vaguely knew the

bar. He was nice.

MURPHY: So you never did connect with your friends that you’d thought you might run into at the lounge area?

Ms. SUTORIUS: No, they weren’t at either place.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante says she called it a night and got back to the house about 2 in the morning. No Darryl that she could see, so she went to sleep. A little while later, she was startled awake by a loud sound.

(House exterior at night; photo of Darryl; house exterior at night; window in stark relief)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I remember, in my dream, hearing a noise.

MURPHY: What did it sound like?

Ms. SUTORIUS: Like a door slamming really loud.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Whatever it was, she said she fell asleep again, and then the next morning, Sunday, she puttered around the house. No sign of Darryl, but that wasn’t unusual.

(House exterior at night; front yard; house exterior)

Ms. SUTORIUS: He was up before I was, always up before I was. And he’d go do his rounds in the hospital. And then he—sometimes he’d have, I don’t know, he’d go have drinks somewhere or he’d go play golf. I’d try to get him to tell me where he’s going, but, you know, he said he didn’t have to check in with me.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) All of Sunday passed and still no Darryl. That night, Dante says she paged him to see if he wanted to make up and have dinner together.

(Tree branch; photo of Darryl)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I figured he just wasn’t calling me back just to be mean.

MURPHY: Even though you’re living separate lives, didn’t you think it was odd Sunday night that he wasn’t there?

Ms. SUTORIUS: He could have been having an affair. I didn’t know. He was gone a lot. He was gone a lot, and he didn’t feel it necessary to tell me. And after a while, I didn’t ask because he wanted me to ask, and it was just a way to hurt me.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Well, if Darryl wasn’t going to show her the simple courtesy of returning her calls, then she wasn’t going to humiliate herself by chasing after him. She’d just let him enjoy a good sulk wherever he was. But when Monday morning came and the doctor hadn’t shown up at the hospital, his secretary called the police.

(Dante; photo of Dante; flowers; photo of Darryl; clouds; hospital exterior)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Phone audiotape) I’m afraid something has happened to him, because this isn’t like him not to answer a page.

Mr. ZELLNER: She had said that was very, very unusual for Dr. Sutorius, that he always answered his pages and always made his rounds at the—at the hospital.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Police officer Lloyd Zellner and a fellow patrolman drove to the Sutorius house. Dante came to the door.

(Lloyd Zellner at desk; police vehicle; front door)

Mr. ZELLNER: We asked her if the doctor was home. She immediately said, ‘No, it’s Monday. He’s at work.’

(Voiceover) When I asked if she would like us to help check the house to see maybe if he was home.

(House exterior)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The policeman headed to the garage, where they saw the doctor’s Lexus. They touched the hood. It was cool.

(Side of house; garage doors)

Mr. ZELLNER: As we did that, we heard a faint scream. At that point I turned around and realized Mrs. Sutorius was nowhere—was not behind me anymore. We went back in the residence and heard the faint scream again, saw a door open leading to the basement, saw Dr. Sutorius laying on the couch...

(Voiceover) ...obviously deceased from a gunshot wound.

(Pistol; crime scene photo)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dr. Darryl Sutorius slumped over on the couch, a partially drunk glass of wine by his side, a .38 inches from his hand.

(Crime scene photos)

MURPHY: Did it look like a suicide to you?

Mr. ZELLNER: It appeared to be—look like that. It was obvious there was a gunshot wound to the head, a gun laying on the floor. He was laying on the couch.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Officer Zellner secured the area and called in help. By the time lead detective Tom Boeing arrived, his crime scene techs were processing the scene. It would be his job to figure out what had happened in the Sutorius basement.

(Room with exercycle; police vehicle in front of house; vehicle on road; Tom Boeing walking; police in front of house; house exterior)

Detective TOM BOEING: (Voiceover) I’m looking at what evidence is here to tell us what we’ve got.

(Crime scene photo)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante agreed to let the detective do a full search of the house.

(Room with piano and table and chairs)

Det. BOEING: I told her I wanted to find out who killed her husband and this would help me do that.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) It quickly became apparent to the detective that the newlyweds were sleeping in separate rooms.

(Kitchen; photo of Dante and Darryl)

Det. BOEING: (Voiceover) There was boxes stacked up all over the place. The rooms were a mess.

(Bedroom; detritus on floor)

Det. BOEING: But you could see that’s where she had been living.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The officers began sifting through Dante’s bedroom, piled high with magazines, clothes and more interesting items.

(Bed; magazines; other items on desk)

Det. BOEING: We found a small amount of cocaine in a dresser drawer.

(Voiceover) We found a couple of knives under her mattress.


MURPHY: Not your usual doctor’s wife.

Det. BOEING: No, no. Not at all.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And among the doctor’s things, they came upon divorce papers.

(Divorce papers)

Det. BOEING: Those papers were to be filed on the day that we found his body.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The officers asked Dante to go to the police station.

There she proceeded to tell them about Darryl getting all huffy that weekend and then ultimately finding him dead that Monday morning.

(Building exterior; photo of Dante; photo of Darryl)

Det. BOEING: The first time she knew he was shot was when the police arrived and she went downstairs.

MURPHY: What are you seeing in her as she’s talking?

Det. BOEING: I knew she was a woman that thought she could control men.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) As the detective tried to figure out this woman’s game, all of a sudden he got unexpected expert assistance. A call came from Dante’s mother.

(Photo of Dante; telephone)

Det. BOEING: She was extremely cooperative with us in telling us about Della’s background, and once we finished that phone conversation, we  almost—we almost had about a 25-year history of her relationships.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And none of it was pretty. Stories were starting to come together: multiple husbands, burning beds and houses, knives, threats, grown men scared for their very lives.

(Photos of Dante; knife)

MURPHY: Who was she turning out to be?

Det. BOEING: She was turning out to be the black widow.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) A week after Dr. Sutorius had been found dead of a gunshot, the authorities arrested Dante. Boeing knew the collar would have to be done with care.

(Crime scene photo; police in front of house; front door)

Det. BOEING: I knew she was a violent, dangerous person because I had talked to people that had been with her for the last 25 or 30 years who she had act violently to. So I was very concerned about how she would react once she realized she was going to jail for murder. I had instructed the uniform officers that as soon as she came to the door, they were to take her into custody regardless of how she was dressed.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dante, the normally coiffed, manicured suburban princess, was caught off guard.

(Exterior of house; Dante being arrested)

Mr. ZELLNER: (Voiceover) I advised her that we had a warrant for her arrest.

(Dante being arrested)

Mr. ZELLNER: And she said, ‘For what?’ And I said, for aggravated murder for the death of Dr. Sutorius.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Officer Zellner led Dante out of the house barefoot in her white bathrobe. Had she finally crossed the line with husband number five, or was this about a man driven crazy who saw no other way out from the hell under his roof?

(Dante being arrested; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Coming up, the trial and one man who Dante doesn’t bedazzle, the prosecutor.

(Photo of Dante; photo of Dante and Darryl; photo of Dante)

Mr. TOM LONGANO: (In court) That woman is the most dangerous person you will ever see in your life. And you know why? Because she doesn’t look like it.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When The Doctor’s Wife continues.

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) That woman is the most dangerous person you will ever see in your life. And you know why? Because she doesn’t look like it.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) She may not have looked like a cold-blooded killer, but Dante Sutorius, the woman who’d gotten her husbands in trouble with the law, was now, in the spring of 1996, the one sitting on the other side of the table, charged with the murder of her surgeon husband, Darryl.

(Dante in court; flowers by photo of Dante; Dante in court; crime scene photo)

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) ‘I’m afraid. I’m afraid of Della.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Prosecutor Tom Longano would tell the court that the doctor wasn’t a suicide. He was done in by a black widow of a woman.

(Dante in court)

Mr. LONGANO: I think we have a cold, calculating, cunning, gold-digging woman who found the opportunity to line her pockets.

MURPHY: The prosecutor would try to convict Dante based on what the experts would say they observed in the basement where the doctor died, but he also wanted the jury to know her, to look beyond her masks and see Dante Sutorius for the heartless schemer the state asserted she really was. The case began with associates of the doctor who said they saw through the loving new bride pose right away. An office manager to Dr. Sutorius described for the court how Dante would show up in his office and snoop through his files, trying to determine what the doctor was doing.

Unidentified Woman #2: (In court) She would go in his office and shut the door. She would look at the appointment book on occasions.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The doctor’s wife was so overbearing that the assistant found a new job.

(Woman on witness stand)

Woman #2: (In court) I quit working because I didn’t want to deal with Dante.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Dr. Louis Spitz, the psychiatrist that Dante had pushed Darryl into seeing, told the court that he saw obvious strife in the marriage.

(Board with names at hospital; empty room with ceiling fan; court in session)

Dr. LOUIS SPITZ: (In court) There was a vicious tone in Dante Sutorius towards her husband.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) In that same session, it was revealed that Dante had been threatening her husband. According to colleagues of Darryl’s, she threatened to turn him over to the IRS and humiliate him before his co-workers with allegations of alcoholism, hygiene problems and his impotence.

(Empty room with ceiling fan; photo of Darryl)

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) Did Dr. Sutorius, in the presence of his wife, tell you that she had threatened to expose him to his colleagues?

Dr. SPITZ: (In court) That came up in the first session.

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) And did she deny that?

Dr. SPITZ: (In court) No.

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) Did you find that unusual?

Dr. SPITZ: (In court) I did.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The prosecution says the doctor’s new bride was making him so miserable Darryl started to investigate.

(Photo of Darryl and Dante)

Mr. LONGANO: He began to start checking into her background, talking with some friends, talking with her relatives.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And that’s how Darryl learned, like husbands before him, that Dante Sutorius, the groomed and coiffed woman of social graces, was an invention.

(Photo of Dante; personals ad)

MURPHY: She hadn’t represented herself honestly in the dating service profile, had she?


MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl had finally unmasked the fiction. She was, of course, not Dante but Della Faye Hall, a high school dropout who’d married four times before meeting the doctor. In court, the jury would hear more about some of her missing history, Dante/Della’s fourth husband, another man clueless about the woman he’d married.

(Dante; photo of Dante; photo of young Dante and others; court in session)

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) What number were you in the scheme of things, do you now realize?

Mr. DAVID BRITTEON: (In court) Now, number four.

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) Is that what you thought then?

Mr. BRITTEON: (In court) No. Then I thought I was the second.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) David Britteon testified Dante emptied his bank account, much as she’d done with her earlier husbands.

(Court in session)

Mr. LONGANO: (In court) What did she take back out of the marriage?

Mr. BRITTEON: (In court) Well, she took what money I had.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) One of Della’s half-sisters took the stand and recalled how, after the marriage to Britteon broke up, Della was concerned that she was losing her touch with men. And then the doctor came along.

(Court in session)

Unidentified Woman #3: (In court) She was a bit worried, didn’t know where her money was going to come from. She was running out of money.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But the prosecutor wanted to convince the jury that this woman wasn’t just a seductress, luring men into her web. The boyfriends and husbands who tried to break away from her did so at their peril.

(Court in session)

Mr. LONGANO: We know she’s had multiple relationships with men over the years that always seem to end on a violent note.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And smearing her men’s reputations, according to testimony, was a typical ploy. Husband number four testified that she tried to ruin him with allegations that he tried to physically abuse her.

(Dante; David Britteon in court)

Mr. BRITTEON: (In court) She called 911 and told the police that I’d hit her over the back of the head, so I was taken to jail.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Della, according to the testimony, seemed to delight in siccing the cops on her partners. Darryl’s psychiatrist also told the court that during a one-on-one counseling session without Della, Darryl had confided that his wife had been almost bragging about what she’d done to her former husbands and boyfriends.

(Louis Spitz testifying; empty room with ceiling fan; Della in court)

Dr. SPITZ: (In court) She stated that she had a previous husband slapped in jail for, I think, hitting her. She also said she had burned down someone’s house and told him how she had done it and that the statute of limitations had run out. At one time she—he said that to me, that she would kill him and get away with it, that she was a clever person.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But was she clever enough to explain away the story told by bullets and blood in the basement of her home? The crime scene itself was about to speak.

(Front door; pistol on floor; bullet casing on floor; crime scene photo; couch; crime scene photos)


Coming Up

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And so was Dr. Sutorius.

(Audiocassette tape)

Dr. DARRYL SUTORIUS: (Audiocassette tape) Don’t call Dante. Please don’t. I may not live through this. I’m serious.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The prosecutor had given the jury a vivid history lesson in Della’s treachery with old husbands and boyfriends; time now to explain how Della fixed on a staged suicide as the way to be rid of husband number five, Dr. Sutorius. The germ of the scheme, the prosecutor theorized, came out of a joint counseling session Della and the doctor had with a psychiatrist. In it, Darryl had talked of the anguish he felt following the breakup of his first marriage.

(Photos of Dante; knife; crime scene photo; photo of Darryl; building exterior; empty room with ceiling fan; photo of Darryl and woman)

Dr. SPITZ: (In court) The issue of suicide came up. And I asked him whether he was suicidal, and he said that he was not suicidal at this time, but stated that he had been suicidal with the breakup of his first marriage.

Mr. LONGANO: She was very shrewd, and I think she picked up on that statement, used that to give birth to this idea of making this look like a suicide.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The psychiatrist told the court that by mid-January, 11 months into his marriage, the surgeon was getting scared.

(House exterior at night)

Dr. SPITZ: (In court) He slept with something shoved up against his door for fear that he might be killed.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And to let the jury hear just how fearful the doctor was becoming, the prosecutor played in court a message Darryl left on his daughter’s answering machine, pleading with her not to call the house because Dante would surely pick up the phone and become a fury after talking with her stepdaughter.

(Court in session; message light beeping on telephone answering machine)

Dr. SUTORIUS: (Audiocassette tape) Don’t call Dante. Please don’t. I may not live through this. I’m serious.

Mr. LONGANO: He left a very chilling message to Deborah, basically begging, almost crying, to her not to confront Della about this, that soon these problems would be over and that he was in fear for his life.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And, significantly, in the state’s chronology of a disintegrating marriage, that’s when Darryl asked a divorce lawyer to draw up papers. In a meeting with Guy Hild, the lawyer assured him that the marriage had been so brief, less than a year, that the surgeon would not be hurt financially.

(Divorce papers; Guy Hild in court; judge)

Mr. GUY HILD: (In court) Darryl and I discussed that. She would have received very little, if anything, in court.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Hild says Darryl not only wanted him to get going on the divorce, he also wanted the lawyer to get a court order to evict her from the house and draw up a temporary restraining order against Dante. When Darryl mentioned that Dante kept a gun in the house, Hild told him to get rid of it.

(Sky; house at night exterior; darkness)

Mr. HILD: (In court) I told him to remove the gun from the home and to tell his wife that if she ever brings another gun into the home or threatens him with a gun, he’s going to consider it an act of domestic violence.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Darryl took his advice. He took the pistol and turned it over to the police. Darryl then set another meeting with his lawyer to finalize the divorce papers on February 19th, a Monday morning the doctor would not live to see.

(Gun and bullets; police station and vehicles; divorce papers; photo of Darryl)

Mr. LONGANO: Monday was very important in Dr. Sutorius’ life as well as Della’s. She knew that if she was the divorced spouse of Dr. Sutorius, she would receive very little. If she was the widow of the Dr. Sutorius who committed suicide, she would literally stand to gain over a million dollars.

So the choice for her was very clear and very simple. She had to act, and she had to act quickly.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And the prosecution would hang a good part of its case around the events that took place on the weekend the doctor was killed. Remember, Della picked up this gun at Target World that Saturday. About 2:30 in the morning is when the medical examiner rules the doctor was shot dead, right around the time Dante says she heard that door slamming sound while she slept. It was the day before he was to sign the divorce papers.

(House exterior at night; desk; pistol; house exterior at night; gun; front door at night; flora)

MURPHY: Who killed Dr. Darryl Sutorius?

Mr. LONGANO: Della. She went to the basement and put the gun to the right side of his head and pulled the trigger.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Remember, the doctor’s body wasn’t discovered until Monday morning, when he failed to show up for work. The doctor’s assistant told the jury she was frightened to see his office door shut.

(House exterior; woman testifying)

Woman #1: (In court) Then I called a friend because I started getting really scared. Then I called my husband, and I told both of them that I think she’s killed him. And my husband said call his house. And I said, ‘No, I don’t want to warn her.’ So I called 911.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And keep in mind, by the time those officers arrived, Dr. Sutorius had been dead for more than a day. And while the cops initially thought it looked like a suicide, the crime scene technicians saw something else entirely in that basement. The prosecution’s experts said there were bloodstains on the couch that proved the crime scene had been tampered with. They argued that the doctor had been moved after he was already dead. How could a spot of blood get under a couch cushion, they asked.

(House exterior; crime scene photos; bloody couch)

Unidentified Man #1: (In court) Certainly there’s no way with it depressed that you could get blood up in there. This...

MURPHY: (Voiceover) These smears, they said, came from either Dante wiping her bloody hands on the couch or from her brushing by it. Then, they analyzed the position the gun had to be in when it was fired, away from his head and above and behind his right ear.

(Court in session; couch; pistol)

Mr. LONGANO: It’s illogical for someone to place—to almost be a contortionist to reach around and hold the firearm in this angle, in this method, when it’s much easier to put it to the side of the head or the forehead or even in the mouth.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But there was something else found at the scene that prosecutors said suggested homicide and not suicide. A second shot was fired, one that went through a cushion of the sofa. The prosecution explained it as Della’s clever attempt to put the gun in Darryl’s hand.

(Couch; couch in court; couch)

Unidentified Man #2: (In court) Dr. Sutorius’ hands had gunshot residue on them?

Unidentified Man #3: (In court) Yes.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And an expert on blood spatter told the court there were other findings that didn’t add up, like blood on the grip of the gun. If Dr. Sutorius was holding it in his hand, how did the blood get there?

(Pistol; crime scene photos)

Mr. LONGANO: Physical facts don’t lie. Someone was in there and manipulated that scene. Someone other than Darryl Sutorius pulled the trigger.

MURPHY: But you have the burden of proof. You have to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that she went down there, 2:30 in the morning, and pulled the trigger and killed him.

Mr. LONGANO: By her own admission the only one in the house. It’s Della Sutorius, Darryl Sutorius and her dog. She’s eliminated any other suspect.

So it’s either Darryl or her.

MURPHY: Dante, did you put a gun to your husband’s head as he slept and fire a bullet into his brain?

Ms. SUTORIUS: No, I didn’t kill him. I didn’t kill him. Darryl killed


MURPHY: (Voiceover) A suicide. What about that? The defense was about to argue that the doctor was clever and malicious enough to not only kill himself, but to also set up this new wife he hated to take the fall.

(Crime scene photo; photo of Darryl; photo of Darryl and Dante)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Coming up, another side of Dr. Darryl Sutorius.

(Photo of Darryl; suicide predictors checklist; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: Who was the Dr. Sutorius that you wanted the jury to meet?

Mr. SCOTT CROSWELL: The real Dr. Sutorius.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When The Doctor’s Wife continues.

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) He has to face up to the threats that she made against him, but, ‘I’m going to tell them you’re impotent, I’m going to tell them you’re dirty, I’m going to tell them you’re cheap, I’m going to tell them you’re obsessed with money, I’m going to tell them that you’re an alcoholic, I’m going to tell them that you see a shrink, and I’m going to tell them you’re on antidepressants, and I’m going to tell them that you are seeing a marriage counselor.’ Think about it.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Scott Croswell, attorney for the defense, had his work cut out for him. He began by telling the jury that Della did threaten to humiliate her husband, and everything she threatened to expose about him was true. The state had portrayed his client as a seductive black widow. Now he was going to go after Darryl Sutorius in the same manner. He would paint a picture not of a frightened man intimidated by the vicious stranger he’d married, not the prosecutor’s version, but that of a bully, an abrasive character whose mean-spiritedness ended with him taking his own life.

(Court in session; photo of Darryl; photo of Dante; photos of Darryl; crime scene photo)

MURPHY: Who was the Dr. Sutorius that you wanted the jury to meet?

Mr. CROSWELL: The real Dr. Sutorius, the Dr. Sutorius who was extremely volatile, who was depressed. He had money problems. He had employment problems and, in addition to that, he was having marital problems.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) On the stand as a witness for the prosecution, one of the doctor’s closest colleagues, Dr. Joseph Todd, had testified to Dr. Sutorius’ solid professional standing in the medical community. But on cross-examination, Della’s lawyer got the doctor to concede that Darryl had a bedside manner so snappish that many of his colleagues refused to work with him.

(Court in session)

Dr. JOSEPH TODD: (In court) Darryl had a reputation for a very explosive behavior towards operating room personnel.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) So volatile a doctor that Bethesda North board members took the unusual step of telling him to get help for his mood swings or lose his hospital privileges.

(Photo of Darryl; Bethesda North Hospital sign; hospital exterior)

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) Isn’t it true that they even forced him to undergo psychiatric treatment for his volatile personality as a condition of remaining at Bethesda Hospital?

Dr. TODD: (In court) That’s true. Sure.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Dr. Sutorius’ colleague testified that Darryl was obsessed with money, and that if he had a week with fewer than normal scheduled surgeries, he’d worry that his star was dimming, his practice collapsing.

(Joseph Todd on witness stand; photo of Darryl; operating room)

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) Based upon his view of money, he may well not have believed that he was financially successful. Wouldn’t you agree with that?

Dr. TODD: (In court) Oh, I think that’s absolutely the truth. Those bad weeks came along, and Darryl was a, ‘Hey, I’m out of business’ type.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The defense’s key witness, a suicide expert, showed the court a chart with 15 factors he said could predict when someone might be on the brink of taking their own life. One by one, the professor checked off Dr. Sutorius as fitting 13 of the 15 suicide predictors. Darryl was depressed, angry, felt his career was in a downward spiral, impotent and was isolated from some of his children.

(Court in session; suicide predictor checklist; photo of Darryl; empty room with ceiling fan)

Unidentified Man #4: (In court) I saw a man who, even if he divorced Della Sutorius, that the real problem was not Della. The real problem was himself.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The same lawyer who handled Darryl’s first divorce had been working to get him out of his marriage to Della. Attorney Guy Hild told the jury that Darryl confided in him during the breakup of his first marriage that the best thing he could do for his children was to simply die.

(Court in session; photo of Darryl, woman and children)

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) Could’ve met his obligations to his children by dying, isn’t that correct?

Mr. HILD: (In court) Well, assuming that what he said about life insurance was right, the beneficiaries of the insurance policy would receive $1.5 million.

MURPHY: The defense would argue that Darryl wasn’t a frightened man teetering on the edge, but a smart, determined doctor laying the groundwork for a clever scheme. If his death was ruled a homicide and not a suicide, the defense attorney said Darryl’s insurance policy would pay his children more than a million dollars. At the same time, by implicating Della in his murder, he’d be getting back at her for threatening to ruin his career.

(Voiceover) In that light, the defense told us, the message left on his daughter’s answering machine could be heard as Darryl planting the seeds of his plot to entrap Della.

(Blinking message light on answering machine)

Dr. SUTORIUS: (Audiocassette tape) I may not live through this. I’m serious.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Is he circulating the idea that Della might kill him, even though he knows he’s actually planning a suicide? And was it more of the same when he pointedly told a golfing buddy, ‘If I end up dead, Della did it’?

(Blinking light; photo of Darryl; court in session)

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) Almost sounds as though he wanted to make sure she got blamed for it, regardless of what happened to him, doesn’t it?

Unidentified Man #5: (In court) I didn’t take it that way.

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) You didn’t take it that way.

To me it’s a very strange statement to tell someone, ‘I’m scared to death of my wife, and if I end up dead tonight, you’ll know she did it.’ I would argue that it shows that he’s not frightened, that instead he’s actually contemplating the fact that he’s going to die that night, and understands that if it’s ruled suicide, his insurance won’t kick in and support his children.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And the defense’s theory of the doctor’s scheme explains another mystery, why he stayed with her.

(Front door exterior at night)

Mr. CROSWELL: (Voiceover) Why does he stay in the house? Why does he sleep in the home with her?

(Front door exterior at night)

Mr. CROSWELL: It does not seem consistent with what people say that he’s saying, or that—or that he feels.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But the defense had other damage to undo, prominently the depiction of Dante Sutorius as a scheming black widow who snapped when relationships with men went sour. How was he going to repair her image?

(Dante in court; photo of Dante)

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) Della was broke when she met you.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The defense pointed out that none of the men before Darryl had any real money to speak of, and all lived to complain about her. So if Della didn’t make any great scores, how did that add up to a black widow, a gold digger?

(Court in session)

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) What’d you fetch into the marriage?

Mr. BRITTEON: (In court) I don’t know, a few thousand, maybe.

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) Apparently she married you for your money?

Mr. BRITTEON: (In court) I didn’t say that.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Money, said the defense, wasn’t a motivation for Della because she didn’t expect to get anything in the event of Darryl’s death. While she could make an argument to inherit his pension, worth about a million dollars, it wasn’t a sure thing since the couple had been married for such a short time.

(Dante in court; exterior of house; photo of Darryl and Dante)

Mr. CROSWELL: The realities are, she understood that he was worth more to her alive than he was dead.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But it was the crime scene techs working down in the basement who would raise the toughest questions for Della. The positioning of the doctor’s body on the couch, bloodstains on the gun and in the room told them that this was a murder.

(Exterior of house at night; room with exercycle; crime scene photos)

Man #1: (In court) Where is his face?

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The prosecution had believed that scientific evidence was the strongest part of the case. But now it was Della’s lawyer’s turn to go after the medical examiner. Couldn’t the bloodstains be explained by the victim in death seizures?

(Court in session; crime scene photo; couch; court in session; couch)

Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) So you do not dispute, then, that Dr. Sutorius could have had a series of involuntary movements?

Man #3: (In court) I couldn’t dispute that, no.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) As for that second shot into the cushion, the prosecution’s own expert on blood spatter even admitted that some suicide victims try a test shot to make sure the gun is working.

(Crime scene photo)

Man #4: (In court) It could be a test shot fired by someone contemplating suicide.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The prosecutor had argued that the way the gun was fired was consistent with a homicide and not suicide. But could the medical examiner say never ever?


Mr. CROSWELL: (In court) The fact that it is three-quarters of an inch away from the head as opposed to in contact with the head in no way eliminates a self-inflicted gunshot wound?

Unidentified Man #6: (In court) That’s absolutely correct.

Mr. CROSWELL: Suicide is, you know, an illogical act, so I don’t believe that you should attempt to analyze a person’s conduct immediately before

committing suicide by logical, traditional standards.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) So what was it, the suicide of a vengeful, angry husband, or a homicide coldly carried out by a black widow of a wife? The jury was about to get the case. Coming up...

(Crime scene photos; photo of Della)

MURPHY: Did you kill him?

Ms. SUTORIUS: No. I didn’t kill him.

Unidentified Juror #1: I found myself wavering back and forth.

Mr. CROSWELL: I believe that when the jury went in to deliberate...

(Voiceover) ...we were in as positive a position as we could possibly be in.

(Delta in court)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

Unidentified Man #7: (In court) All rise.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) After two weeks of testimony, the case was now in the

hands of the jury. If convicted of killing her husband, Della “Dante” Sutorius faced life in prison.

(Empty jury seats; Dante in court)

Mr. LONGANO: You begin to think of things maybe you should have done or things you should not have done in this particular case.

Mr. CROSWELL: I believe that when the jury went in to deliberate, we were in as positive a position as we could possibly be in.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But, of course, the stakes were highest for Della, who says she would never have killed the man who supplied all the things in life she’d been looking for.

(Dante in court; photo of Dante and Darryl)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I saw him as someone who I could finally have, you know, the little house and the picket fence and someone who would be madly in love with me, because that’s the way he acted.

MURPHY: And when that threatened to go away, the pretty big picket fence and the pretty big car, did you kill him?

Ms. SUTORIUS: No. I didn’t kill him.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But now a jury would decide that. Among the 12, they were a zookeeper, a financial analyst, an administrative assistant, some nurses, a mailman, a program coordinator, and a retiree, all called to sit in judgment on another person and make an agonizing decision.

(Empty jury seats; Murphy talking to jurors; individual shots of jurors)

Juror #1: I found myself wavering back and forth. And then I’d think, ‘No, I have to listen to all the evidence and see everything before I can make a determination.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) In a circumstantial case with no eyewitnesses, the jury had to confront the question: Who was this woman, Della Dante Sutorius, the perfect little lady the doctor thought he’d married?

(Murphy talking to jurors; photo of Dante)

Unidentified Juror #2: She knew she had basically a meal ticket, and she knew that she’d never have to work again.

Unidentified Juror #3: She seemed to be a person that could exploit people.

She knew that Darryl needed some loving after his previous marriage. But once she had a—her hook in him, she turned just the opposite.

MURPHY: Did you wonder what Della was doing in the house that weekend?

Juror #1: Yes.

Unidentified Juror #4: Yes. Yes.

Unidentified Juror #5: Yes, here was somebody that was constantly checking up on him, very suspicious of him, and all of a sudden she was very vague about when was the last time she’d seen him. I found that very surprising.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And one of the biggest bombs for the defense to defuse was testimony that Della had picked up this .38 that Saturday. While some jurors thought the gun could have given Della the means to murder the doctor, others spun it around and said it could also have been the instrument of the doctor’s suicide.

(Pistol; crime scene photo)

MURPHY: The defense is saying this doctor is a volatile man, became aware that there was a gun, happened to come into his possession, and at a very bad moment he ended his life.

Unidentified Juror #6: Mm-hmm. I think he was drinking wine at the time, too, so they might say he was—I mean, he might have been, you know, more depressed because he was drinking.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) As much as the prosecutor had put Della on trial, the defense wanted the jury to take a hard look at Darryl Sutorius. So did they see a man teetering on the edge?

(Photo of Dante; photos of Darryl)

Juror #5: Yes. His life as he had known it was deteriorating. And then his relationship with Della certainly didn’t help to build him back up or build his life back up like he had hoped to.

Juror #2: I heard that, you know, he was a real SOB to work with in the operating room. I heard nurses that said, you know, ‘We don’t have anything to do with him.’ I heard he had bad hygiene. I heard that his business wasn’t as good as it should have been or could have been.

MURPHY: And this woman had walked into his life, and it looked like the whole cycle was going to start up again, huh?

Juror #2: Right.

MURPHY: Bad choice in a partner, lose the house, public humiliation, going to expose him?

Juror #2: Very much so.

MURPHY: These are a lot of hammer shots hitting, right?

Juror #2: No question. No question about it.

MURPHY: That’s a lot of stress.

Juror #2: Very much so.

Man #4: (In court) The real problem was himself.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And the defense’s key witness had gone through each of his 15 factors he said could predict a suicide. The doctor, he told the jury, fit almost every one.

(Court in session)

Juror #3: I basically was going down and saying, ‘Wow, you know, that’s pretty substantial evidence there that they’re showing this.’

MURPHY: The 15 points?

Group of Jurors: (In unison) Mm-hmm.

Juror #2: Certainly.

MURPHY: That was a good witness to call?

Juror #1: Oh, yes.

Juror #6: It was. It was a great witness. Everything on that list was a problem that Dr. Sutorius had at that time.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Then there was the question of motive. If Della had a reason to murder the doctor because their marriage was becoming unglued, did the doctor also have a reason to kill himself that weekend, the weekend before what was likely going to be the beginning of a very ugly divorce.

(Photo of Darryl and Dante; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: Here’s the defense’s argument. Maybe he’s worried about getting that insurance money to his children, and the guaranteed way to have the policy pay off is for it to look like a homicide, but in fact was a suicide. Was it a good argument? Was there a part of it that settled in...

Unidentified Juror #7: It was a—it was a very good argument. Because this would have been one way of getting back at Della, of making sure his children would get the money, that she wouldn’t receive anything.

Juror #4: Yeah, that was a good point they made. It was something to really think about.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Thinking about a woman’s life, to let her walk or not? They would need more time to talk it through again.

(Dante in court)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Coming up, the verdict.

(Empty juror chairs; Dante in court)

Unidentified Man #8: (In court) We, the jury, find the defendant, Della Dante Sutorius...

MURPHY: (Voiceover) When The Doctor’s Wife continues.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) To the jury, it wasn’t an open-and-shut case. And as their deliberations went into a second day, the jurors were taking the defense’s arguments very seriously. For instance, that chilling phone message the doctor left on his daughter’s answering machine.

(Courthouse exterior; jury deliberation room; answering machine light blinking)

Dr. SUTORIUS: (Audiocassette tape) I may not live through this. I’m serious.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Was Dr. Sutorius genuinely scared, or was he setting up Dante to take the fall for murder for what, in fact, would be a suicide? That was a defense theory, the vengeful husband.

(Front door exterior at night; photo of Darryl)

MURPHY: If this man is so fearful for his life, what is he doing in that house on the basement, lying on a couch having a glass of wine?

Juror #6: Why not leave?

MURPHY: Didn’t you wonder that?

Juror #6: Right.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The jurors continued to ask questions, review evidence,

air their theories. They needed to be certain.

(Empty juror seats)

Juror #4: You really have to think 10 times about your decision and go over everything with a fine-toothed comb and make sure that you made the right decision.

MURPHY: And did you do that as this jury?

Juror #1: Mm-hmm.

Juror #4: Mm-hmm. Yes.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Finally, they voted. They were 12.

(Empty juror seats)

Juror #4: (Voiceover) I had butterflies in my stomach.

(Empty juror seats)

Juror #4: I was very nervous because I knew we were dealing with somebody’s life, and that’s a real serious matter.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The jury filed back in. The courtroom hushed. How would it fall?

(Court in session)

Man #8: (In court) We, the jury, find the defendant, Della Dante Sutorius, guilty of aggravated murder.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Della was stunned by the guilty verdict.

(Court in session)

Ms. SUTORIUS: I just couldn’t believe it. Part of me knew—had seen it coming from the day I found him. You know, everything that had been going on.

And it was like a Salem witch hunt or something. You know, they did a very good job of making it look like I—like I killed Darryl instead of Darryl killing Darryl. They made it look like that. They did it. They were very clever.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But the jury had bought the prosecution’s case. They were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Della had taken her husband’s life.

(Court in session)

Man #1: It all comes back to the pattern of the blood splatters.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And they felt comfortable that they had done the right by doing their part to put the harmless-looking petite blonde behind bars.

(Della being escorted out of courtroom)

Juror #2: Very dangerous lady. Black widow, that’s probably the understatement of the century in my opinion.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And Grant Bassett, husband number three, had no doubt that the doctor had met a fate that could just as easily have been his.

(Bassett at window; crime scene photo)

Mr. BASSETT: This person is very, very, very dangerous. Very dangerous.

MURPHY: Are you one who thinks you’re lucky to get out alive, or is that overstating it?

Mr. BASSETT: No, no, I’m lucky to be here. I’m damn lucky to be here talking to you, there’s no question about that.

MURPHY: You think she might have done you in?

Mr. BASSETT: Oh, absolutely. Oh, absolutely. I thank my lucky stars.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But still he was surprised that the woman who had him thrown in jail, someone he says kept knives at the ready, was, in the end, finally caught.

(Dante; knife)

Mr. BASSETT: She sang, ‘I can get myself into anything and get myself out of it. I have a pocket full of free passes.’

MURPHY: (Voiceover) After the reading of the verdict, Della was led away by the court officers. Her sister Donna is convinced the doctor, tortured as he was by so many midlife demons and fears, became a perfect candidate for a Della takeover.

(Dante being escorted in front of cameramen; photos of Darryl; photo of Dante)

DONNA: I actually think Della hates men. Della sees men as weak and targets.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Aphrodite Jones, who wrote a book on Della Dante Sutorius, agrees.

(Dante; “Della’s Web” book)

Ms. JONES: It was about tormenting people. She wanted to have somebody to torment.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Della Sutorius was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison. Her first chance for parole is in the year 2013, something that terrifies husband number three.

(Della in court)

Mr. BASSETT: I’m frightened of her, and I’m really upset with a system that would even consider releasing someone like that back into society.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Deborah, the doctor’s daughter, agreed. While she regretted that she couldn’t free her father from the new bride’s web in time, she was grateful her stepmother would be behind bars.

(Deborah in court; photo of Darryl; Della being escorted out of courtroom)

DEBORAH: (Voiceover) Unfortunately, took my dad’s life to put her where she belongs.

(Della being escorted out of courtroom)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Not beguiling men in hotel lobby bars, not devising schemes to play them as the perfect fool, Della, without the makeup, without the stylish clothes, is now otherwise engaged inside the Ohio Department of Corrections.