David Vatter, a 69-year-old truck driver from Virginia, was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday morning for the murder of his wife that occurred in March 2014. The trial was held at the Augusta County Courthouse in downtown Staunton, Massachusets.
Opening statements just wrapped up in the trial of David Vatter in Augusta Co. He’s accused of poisoning his wife to death with anti-freeze. pic.twitter.com/4MhdRPVZrY
— Matt Talhelm (@MattTalhelm) August 7, 2017
The death of his wife Shelby Vatter, 76, was a mystery at first. The couple had been married for 19 years at the time of her death, and David claimed he knew nothing of his wife’s rapidly declining health.
He maintained his story throughout the investigation, speculating that his wife was suicidal. News Leader claims David was controlling and domineering. David, a long-haul truck driver, did not let his wife leave their home while he was away.
Shelby spent three weeks in a coma before she passed away from being poisoned.
Following her death, David did multiple media interviews to express his grief over the loss of his wife. Authorities did suspect David as the murderer for some time, but it wasn’t until evidence was submitted to the grand jury in November that they had the information needed to convict him.
A friend of Shelby’s told the jury that Shelby was worried her husband would “bump her off” only three days before she was killed.
Money As The Motive
Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Martin told USA Today that Shelby was killed with ethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. Martin said the amount was 25 times more than a lethal dose, meaning she drank anywhere from 7 to 14 ounces of antifreeze.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Shelby was intubated and did not regain consciousness. Martin said first responders found Shelby Vatter with a bruised face and in an altered, almost drunken, state.
The Vatters were in financial trouble as they headed towards bankruptcy, and their house was going to be foreclosed. David mistakenly thought that his wife’s insurance policy of $70,000 would provide the financial relief he needed. Following her death, it became immediately evident to David that this insurance policy did not exist.
Martin also said David gained power of attorney of the couple’s estate in 2009. He then quickly cut Shelby’s daughter out of their will.
Trail of Lies
When David heard the news of his wife’s rapidly declining health he left the hospital and went home to supposedly feed the dog.
His neighbor, Diane Urvan, testified that when Shelby was transported to the hospital she assumed care of the Vatter’s dog. She also states that she saw David taking out trash only 15 minutes after the paramedics transported Shelby to the hospital.
In her testimony, Urvin recalled placing a blanket on her friend as paramedics took her away on a stretcher. As for David’s reaction to the incident, she said, “I didn’t see any emotion whatsoever.”
Police later found three containers of RV antifreeze – two full containers in the garage and one half-full container in David’s shed.
Further, David was seen by a Verona Waffle Inn employee attempting to sell his wife’s valuable possessions suspiciously close to the time of Shelby’s death. Urvan also testified that she saw David on the porch after his wife had slipped into a coma, romantically embracing another woman.
Life Behind Bars?
David was arrested in December and now faces a much longer sentence after being convicted. Gears of Biz reported, “Within 20 minutes of finding him guilty on Monday, the jury recommended that David is sentenced to life behind bars. They also recommended a $100,000 fine.”
The amount of jail time David faces is still unclear at this time, but his reaction to being convicted was a simple shake of the head. The judge has not yet given his final sentencing.
“No matter the outcome we can’t bring her back, but I feel like the jury did a really great job and the prosecutor’s team did a really great job. And, my mom was a funny, quirky person and we do miss her,” Margaret Crutchfield, Shelby Vatter’s daughter, told NBC following the conviction.