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Man Found Guilty of Poisoning Wife With Paraquat

April 15, 1986 GMT

MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) _ A 41-year-old man has been convicted of poisoning his wife with paraquat and now faces trials in the death of his mother and a former wife who ingested the toxic herbicide.

Steven Catlin, of Fresno, was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder with special circumstances, which could mean the death penalty.

His wife, Glenna Kaye, died March 14, 1984, at the age of 35. Toxicologists testified that the cause of death was ingestion of paraquat.

Prosecutor Lawrence Jones said Catlin had access to the chemical when he worked for an agricultural company. Catlin collected on a $56,000 life insurance policy after his wife’s death, and Jones argued that the motive for the murder was financial gain.

The jury also heard testimony about the December 1984 death of Catlin’s mother, Martha, 77, of paraquat poisoning in Bakersfield.

Trial is pending for Catlin in Kern County in the death of Martha Catlin and of Joyce Catlin, the third of his six wives, who was poisoned with paraquat in 1976. The jury was not told he has been charged with the other deaths.

Deputy Public Defender Curtis Sisk argued Monday that it would be a miscarriage of justice for the jury to convict Catlin.

The first symptoms of paraquat poisoning normally appear within 24 hours, but 48 hours elapsed between the last time Catlin saw Glenna and the time she developed symptoms, Sisk said.

He said a week elapsed between the last time Catlin went to see his mother and the day she developed symptoms and died.

Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell scheduled Monday as the first day of a penalty phase of the trial. A new jury will be chosen to decide whether Catlin should be sentenced to die in the gas chamber or to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The trial was moved to Monterey County from Fresno County because of pretrial publicity.