The woman known as the “Black Widow of Isère”, Manuela Gonzalez, stands accused of drugging her husband and burning him to death, as well as two other previous husbands who died in mysterious ways, and another two lovers involved with her who narrowly escaped death.
Gonzales’ trial on begins Monday for drugging her husband and then burning him to death in his car.
The case of Manuela Gonzalez has gripped France since it was discovered that the men in her life either die, or come close.
The charred remains of Miss Gonzalez’s late husband, Daniel Cano, 58, were discovered in his burnt-out car near the house he shared with her in Villard-Bonnot in the Isère region of the Alps.
After police investigation of the fire, they believe it was deliberately set, and that the deceased, Mr Cano, had taken – or was unknowingly fed – a large dose of sleeping pills.
The prosecution claims that the motive for Mr Cano’s death was money. Miss Gonzalez and her husband were both regular gamblers and she had racked up considerable debts. Investigators found that in 2008, she re-mortgaged their house for 165,000 euros ($229,000) without her husbands knowledge.
It was also discovered that Mr Cano’s life insurance was enough to pay off the entire mortgage on their home.
Murder trial opens for France's 'Black Widow': Five of Manuela Gonzalez's lovers have died or nearly died in m… http://t.co/JJAXHQ9Q4V
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While digging into Miss Gonzalez’s past, investigators discovered that four of her previous partners had been poisoned in suspicious circumstances, and two others had died.
In 1983, her husband at the time, spent three months in a coma after taking large quantities of anti-depressants. He divorced her when he woke up.
Just a short year later, she began a relationship with a jeweler, who ended up hospitalized after drinking a cup of tea she had laced with morphine derivatives as part of a plot to persuade him to write her a cheque for the equivalent of £10,000. That crime resulted in her conviction and a two-year prison sentence.
In April 1989, another lover died in his garage, asphyxiated by exhaust fumes from his car. The death was declared a suicide at the time.
Another male boyfriend died in 1991 as a result of fumes caused by a fire in an apartment they shared. Miss Gonzalez was accused of causing the death but the charges were dropped three years later.
Strangely, a month before Mr Cano’s death, a fire broke out in his bedroom during the night while Miss Gonzalez was “cooking”. She said the dog had knocked over a candle in the room.
Lawyers for Cano’s family say the past incidents reflect a pattern of murderous behavior while advocates for Gonzalez are expected to argue they have all been dealt with by the authorities and should not be considered relevant to this case.
Prosecuting lawyers say that Miss Gonzalez has a split personality – one loving and fun, the other a murderess.
Mr Cano’s son, Nicolas, 30, said: “She is someone with two faces.”
“I have known her since I was six. She was kind, helpful, and smiley. She educated me and supported me throughout school. She was someone I loved very much and trusted,” he told Le Parisien before the trial.
“Now I see her other face: Machiavellian, manipulating and full of hatred. I thought I knew her but I didn’t know her.”
Her lawyer, Ronald Gallo, accused the French press of creating an inaccurate profile of Gonzales that “doesn’t give a damn about the truth and is only interested in the character they have created”.
Miss Gonzalez pleaded not-guilty to the charges, for which she faces a life sentence if convicted.
“I continue to say that I am innocent of what I have been accused and that will be shown in court,” she said.
A verdict is due on Friday.
Image via Wikimedia Commons