Prosecutors argued Wednesday that a Federal Way pest-control business manager poisoned his wife with strychnine so he could continue an affair with his wife's best friend.
The lawyer for Joseph Naimo countered that the woman was just leaning on Naimo for support and that his wife, Ann Marie Naimo, 53, died when she ingested strychnine from a bottle she had in her home.
Opening statements took place Wednesday in King County Superior Court at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Joseph Naimo, 63, is charged with killing his wife of 10 years Nov. 28, 2008, at their Federal Way home. Prosecutors say Naimo then misled investigators and lied to others, saying she died of a heart attack. Naimo had access to strychnine and specialized training in the use of such poisons, prosecutors contend.
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Test results put the level of strychnine in Ann Naimo’s system at 8.35 milligrams per liter of blood, far more than the minimum lethal dose of 0.25 milligram , according to court documents.
Naimo was charged with first-degree murder in May 2009 and pleaded not guilty the next month. He has been jailed at the Regional Justice Center with bail set at $1 million .
Deputy prosecutor Kristin Richardson and Naimo’s attorney, Les Tolzin of Tacoma, clashed during the opening statements. They did agree that the couple had been drinking the day after Thanksgiving.
Richardson said Naimo caused one of the most excruciating deaths a human being can suffer.
Tolzin offered a different explanation: “She found an old bottle of strychnine. She took a little dab of strychnine.”
Richardson objected, saying Tolzin had no evidence to back up his claim.
Tolzin fired back: “You’ve got no witnesses to say he poisoned her, do you?”
The Naimos were alone in their Federal Way home when she died.
Tolzin said it’s not known whether Ann Naimo took the poison intentionally.
Joseph Naimo carefully watched the proceedings dressed in a two-piece black suit with a gray shirt and tie.
Richardson and Tolzin also clashed over another matter. Richardson said Naimo showed a witness visiting him in jail evidence on his laptop. Tolzin protested that wasn’t true because case records show Naimo only talked with the visitor.
Tolzin moved for a mistrial, but Judge Deborah Fleck ruled there wasn’t sufficient reason to declare one.
During both lawyers’ statements, Joseph Naimo’s relationship with a Tacoma woman emerged as a disputed focus of a motive for murder. Both lawyers agreed Joseph Naimo kissed the 52-year-old woman on the dance floor when they were at a casino gambling with Ann Naimo.
Joseph Naimo and the woman were having an affair – “maybe not physical, (but) certainly emotional,” Richardson said. Cell phone records show more than 2,500 calls between the two in the 18 months before Ann Naimo’ s death, Richardson said.
Naimo also killed his wife because he was tired of her nagging him about past problems when she was drunk, Richardson said.
“She was a mean drunk,” the deputy prosecutor said. “Their marriage was on the skids.”
Tolzin said the Naimos and the Tacoma woman went out together frequently to gamble. The Tacoma woman was having problems with her own marriage.
“She leaned on him a lot,” Tolzin said, “perhaps more than friends should.”
But the attorney said Naimo loved his wife, so much that he continued to buy her flowers every week after she died as he had done before her death.
The trial is expected to last up to five weeks. If he is convicted of first-degree murder, Joseph Naimo could receive a prison sentence of 20 years to 26 years, eight months.