Wife pleads guilty for exercising her 73-year-old husband to death

February 15, 2009

(ChattahBox) — A bizarre case of spousal abuse with an unknown motive ended in a transgendered woman pleading guilty to reckless homicide for exercising her 73-year-old husband to death in a swimming pool.

Police in Middlefield, Ohio, said surveillance video showed 41-year-old Christine Newton-John (photo left) pulling James Mason around the pool by his arms and legs and preventing him from leaving.

Mason eventually had a heart attack on June 2 after the extended swim session.

Police Chief Joseph Stehlik said he counted 43 times on the videotape in which Newton-John prevented her frail husband from leaving the water. He said Mason rested his head on the side of the pool several times while gasping for breath.

“This is a case that could just slip through the cracks.”

It didn’t because Stehlik’s deputy became suspicious after Mason’s June 2 heart attack, recalling that he’d investigated previous allegations of abuse.

A police officer noticed a surveillance camera above the pool and retrieved the tape – which showed Mason struggling to breathe during the marathon swim session.

A grand jury indicted Newton-John on reckless homicide, and she pleaded guilty Thursday.

“You can see the man struggling for his life on the tape, but there is no audio, so we couldn’t hear what he was saying,” prosecutor David Joyce told the newspaper, explaining why he didn’t pursue a murder rap.

Mason was a longtime friend of his wife’s family, and his eventual spouse who then was John Vallandingham. John  had gender reassignment surgery in 1993 and changed her name to Christine Newton-John in honour of the singer and star of the hit movie version of the musical Grease.

The couple were wed in 2006 in Kentucky, where people can change their gender on their birth certificate. They married in 2006.

Newton-John pleaded guilty Thursday and faces up to five years in prison. No sentencing date was set.


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