BATON ROUGE, La. (TCD) -- A 54-year-old woman was convicted in a bench trial this week seven years after she reportedly killed her live-in boyfriend.
According to WVLA-TV, a judge found Meshell Hale guilty of second-degree murder for poisoning her boyfriend Damian Skipper with barium acetate following a two week trial. The Advocate reports Hale opted for a bench trial over a jury trial, which is why District Judge Raymond Bigelow decided the verdict.
According to The Advocate, Hale purchased the poison online on three separate occasions and used her credit card to pay for it. The barium acetate was also delivered to her home.
Forty-one-year-old Skipper died June 30, 2015, after he was hospitalized several times due to medical emergencies. WAFB-TV reports doctors initially said Skipper died from a heart attack.
In 2017, officials reportedly exhumed Skipper’s body, and the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner said his manner of death was homicide caused by barium poisoning.
A few months after Skipper died, Hale’s estranged husband, Arthur Noflin, was hospitalized with similar symptoms to Skipper’s, including vomiting, abdominal pain, and weakness.
In March 2016, Noflin’s burned remains were found inside his pickup truck, which had been set on fire and left in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, according to The Advocate. His death reportedly could not be classified as a homicide because of the state of his remains, and Hale was never charged.
WAFB reports Hale searched "heart stopping drug," "barium acetate poisoning," "barium acetate put in food," and other similar topics.
Hale was arrested in 2018 in connection with Skipper’s death.
Both Noflin and Skipper’s families waited outside the courtroom in Baton Rouge on Friday for the verdict.
Bigelow reportedly said in his ruling, "There was very little direct evidence in this case, but an abundance of circumstantial evidence as to the death of Mr. Skipper. There’s no doubt that Mr. Skipper was a victim of barium poisoning that led to his death."