Readings — From the September 2013 issue

The Marriage Plot

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From an April 30 police report and subsequent affidavit on the arrest of Jacob Forster, a graduate student in chemistry at Washington State University, who is charged with the attempted murder of his wife, Cheryl.

Cheryl Forster said she woke up in the middle of the night and her husband, Jacob Forster, had put a cardboard box over her head, and either had or was planning to put argon or nitrogen into the box for her to breathe. She said Jacob told her it was nitrogen, but he told their counselor it was argon.

That night, she said, Jacob told her he was going to give her a small dose of the gas so she would not wake up so he could use the gas on himself to commit suicide. Cheryl told me that she got a life-insurance policy worth $1 million that was finalized in February. She also said she did her own research and found out that nitrogen is not detectable in an autopsy.

I then called and spoke with Jacob. I told him that I thought he knew why I wanted to talk to him. Jacob said he did not know why I had called. I eventually told him it had to do with his wife and a box. Jacob told me he wanted to commit suicide by asphyxiation in a way that would look like cardiac arrest. He said that if you breathe in nitrogen it will reduce the oxygen in the blood and there will be nothing for the coroner to find.

He said if you breathe it in for no more than one minute and a half it will cause no damage. He said he had the box on her head and was putting gas into it for her to breathe for approximately thirty seconds as he was watching the clock, but it had no second hand. He said she woke up.

I asked him why he wanted to commit suicide, and he said he cannot tell his family that he cannot finish his Ph.D. He also said Cheryl does not enjoy sex, and it was frustrating, and between both of those things he wanted out. Jacob then said he was starting dental school this fall at the Loma Linda School of Dentistry in California.

I asked him if going to school there is expensive, and he said yes. I remained silent, and after about thirty seconds Jacob said, “No, I was not trying to kill her.” He said he was going to sedate her because she kept waking up and checking on him so he would not be able to commit suicide.

Cheryl came into the sheriff’s office so I could get a recorded statement from her. Cheryl said that Jacob had arranged for them to sit in their hot tub once she got home that night. She said he wanted to have sex, but she was not interested, so they went to sleep. She said that prior to waking up with the box over her head she had woken up and Jacob was standing in the doorway to their bedroom with a red headlamp on his head looking to see if she was asleep.

She also said when she woke up with the box over her head the lights were off. She was not sure how big the box was, but she could feel that it was cardboard. She said the box had a lot of packing tape on it. She did try to push it off but she could not move it. Cheryl said they estimated it would cost $200,000 to $300,000 for Jacob to complete dental school.

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