Attorneys clashed Monday in the retrial of a Federal Way pest-control business manager, arguing over whether he poisoned his wife with strychnine or she committed suicide.
They presented more than two hours of opening statements in what is expected to be another long trial for Joseph Naimo.
King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill , who is new to the case, told jurors last week that it could last until mid-June. That’s nearly 11 weeks, compared to seven weeks of testimony in Naimo’s first trial, which ended in a deadlocked jury.
A King County prosecutor argued Monday that Naimo is the only person who had the motive, opportunity and knowledge to fatally poison his wife with strychnine on Nov. 28, 2008.
Deputy prosecutor Jimmy Hung said Naimo killed his wife, Ann Naimo, at their Federal Way home so he could pursue relationships with two other women.
“Ann had become a pest, so he got rid of her and nearly got away with it,” Hung said at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Defense attorney Les Tolzin countered that Ann Naimo was addicted to pain killers and was an alcoholic who became despondent when she’d been drinking. On the day she died, Ann Naimo had a blood-alcohol level of .18, more than twice the legal limit for driving, Tolzin said.
She had learned the day before her death that her sister-in-law from her previous marriage had terminal cancer, the Tacoma attorney said.
“Ann Naimo committed suicide,” Tolzin said. “Everyone who knew her was surprised.”
The second trial of Naimo started April 4 with four days of jury selection. More than 180 jurors were considered before a 12-member jury was selected along with three alternates.
The first trial ended in a mistrial in October when jurors deadlocked. The jury was split 9-3 in favor of convicting Naimo of first-degree murder.
Naimo, 64, is charged with killing his wife of 10 years, Ann Marie Naimo, 53, on Nov. 28, 2008 in their Federal Way home.
Naimo has been in jail for nearly 23 months since his arrest May 20, 2009, held in lieu of $1 million bail.
He nodded to seven family friends sitting together as he entered the courtroom Monday wearing a black pin-striped suit.
Hung said Ann Naimo’s death wasn’t an accident, and she didn’t kill herself.
Naimo poisoned his wife and then tried to “misdirect and mislead everyone with hopes of getting away with murder,” Hung said.
Naimo was alone with his wife at home during the hour it took for strychnine to kill her, according to court documents.
Suffocating from strychnine-induced convulsions, Ann Naimo “suffered one of the most excruciating deaths known to man,” Hung said.
Naimo was having a relationship with a Tacoma-area woman who was his wife’s best friend, Hung said. They connected by cell phone 2,388 times from Jan. 1, 2008 to May 20, 2009. Naimo told a co-worker the woman performed oral sex on him on one occasion, Hung said.
Tolzin said there’s no evidence the two were having a sexual relationship.
Tolzin said Ann Naimo’s daughter found a decorative bottle containing strychnine in her mother’s dresser when she was removing her belongings. The daughter had given the bottle to her mother, who collected decorative bottles.
The daughter didn’t tell authorities about the bottle until eight months after Naimo was arrested for fear she would be arrested, Tolzin said.
Hung said the story of the bottle being in Ann Naimo’s house “was fabricated after the fact to support his pathetic claim that she did this to herself.”