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Wife Convicted in ‘Murder Mystery’

January 16, 1999 GMT

EASTON, Md. (AP) _ Just days before he was killed last Valentine’s Day, Stephen Hricko wrote in his diary that he hoped to salvage his marriage during a weekend murder-mystery retreat with his wife.

His wife, Kimberly Hricko, was convicted Friday of poisoning him and then setting their hotel room on fire to cover up the crime. She faces life in prison for the first-degree murder and arson.

Prosecutors said Mrs. Hricko, a 33-year-old surgical technician, confided in friends and co-workers before the death that she was bitterly unhappy in her nine-year marriage and longed to get rid of her husband.

Witnesses said Mrs. Hricko stood to collect $400,000 from life insurance policies taken out on her husband.

During closing arguments Friday, prosecutor Robert Dean detailed Mrs. Hricko’s ``coldblooded and sinister″ plot to kill her husband by injecting him with the powerful drug succinylcholine chloride to stop his breathing. Then, he said, she set fire to the hotel suite they shared at an Eastern Shore resort hours after the couple watched a Valentine’s Day murder-mystery play on Feb. 14.

The whodunit onstage portrayed a groom sipping poisoned champagne who drops dead during a toast and the audience tries to solve the mystery.

Defense attorneys, who said they would appeal the verdict, argued that Hricko drank heavily the night he died and may have accidentally set his bedspread on fire. They also theorized that Hricko committed suicide, though they never said how he might have killed himself.

Jennifer Hricko, 42, the victim’s sister, said the verdict won’t assuage the family’s pain.

``It will help a little bit, but ... Steve’s not back,″ she said. ``This didn’t right the wrongs, but maybe this will prevent someone from doing the same thing.″