Woman takes plea deal in poisoned smoothie case

VERNAL, Utah (AP) — A Utah woman has resolved charges accusing her of spiking a 79-year-old man’s peach smoothie with antifreeze after taking control of his bank accounts and naming herself as a beneficiary on his life insurance policies.

Selena Irene York entered Utah’s version of a no-contest plea Thursday in the state’s 8th District Court in Vernal.

Authorities say the 34-year-old York took nearly $10,000 from Ed Zurbuchen, who opened his household to the woman and her 13-year-old daughter. Friends say Zurbuchen is an uncommonly generous man.

York served Zurbuchen a peach smoothie in September 2008 after pouring out half of it and topping it off with antifreeze, Vernal police said.

“I ended up in a hospital for four days not knowing what happened,” Zurbuchen told the AP last week. “I thought I had a stroke.”

The case stalled until a jilted former boyfriend in Oregon alerted police in Vernal — a town in eastern Utah near the Colorado border — that York had called to brag about poisoning Zurbuchen. Joseph Dominic Ferraro told authorities that York earlier had drained his bank accounts and sold both of his cars while he was in jail.

York was first accused of attempted murder. Under the Alford plea, she didn’t admit guilt but acknowledged prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict her of lesser charges. She will remain at Uintah County Jail until her Feb. 14 sentencing on reduced charges of aggravated assault and forgery.

The plea deal was reported by affiliated news agencies KSL and the Deseret News of Salt Lake City.

York’s 13-year-old daughter won’t be charged in juvenile court under terms of the deal. Investigators say the girl was aware of her mother’s plans to poison Zurbuchen.

York’s defense attorney, Michael Humiston, wasn’t answering his office phones on Friday. Uintah County Attorney John Gothard also wasn’t available, his office assistant said Friday. Online court files in the case hadn’t been updated Friday afternoon.

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