June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Dennis Auerswald sentenced to life in prison

MEDINA — Dennis Auerswald was sentenced to life in prison Monday for poisoning his wife with antifreeze in 2009. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years, when he will be 90 years old.

“Any potential sentence was a death sentence,” said Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman. The minimum Auerswald could have been ordered to was life with parole after 20 years. “He’ll die in prison.”

Dennis Auerswald, seated with his attorneys, maintains his innocence Monday morning, just before he was sentenced to life in prison with a chance of parole after 30 years. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY MARIA KACIK KULA)

Dennis Auerswald, seated with his attorneys, maintains his innocence Monday morning, just before he was sentenced to life in prison with a chance of parole after 30 years. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY MARIA KACIK KULA)

A jury found Auerswald, 60, of Montville Township, guilty of aggravated murder and murder after a two-week trial last month.

Throughout the course of the trial, prosecutors’ evidence and witnesses painted the picture of an abusive husband who poisoned his wife with antifreeze so he could be free to date other women and to cash in on life insurance policies.

Before receiving his sentence Monday, Auerswald vehemently denied poisoning his wife.

“I find it unconscionable that someone would accuse a loving spouse as a monster watching, giving poison to his wife in a glass or however,” Auerswald, a retired major with the U.S. Air Force, told Judge Christopher J. Collier. Auerswald did not testify during his trial last month.

He said prosecutors did not adequately prove their case against him, since there was no direct evidence that showed he actually gave his wife antifreeze. He called Holman “the Darth Vader of Medina” and urged his Medina County constituents to vote him out of office.

He also accused the prosecution’s witnesses, many of whom were his former friends, of lying. “You will be judged,” Auerswald said, citing a verse from the Book of Revelation.

Prosecutors presented about 40 witnesses and more than 80 pieces of evidence over the course of last month’s trial. However, Holman said it was Dennis Auerswald’s own words that helped seal the case against him. For example, he told investigators that his wife, Maureen Auerswald, was drinking cranberry juice the day she died, but no cranberry juice was found in any glasses or in the trash.

Holman said Auerswald disposed of it to cover up his crime.

“This was a vicious, premeditated, planned murder,” he said.

Maureen Auerswald “never got the justice in the marriage, your honor, but she got justice from the jury of Medina County,” he said.

Friends of Maureen Auerswald rejoiced outside the courtroom after the sentencing.

“I’m still appalled that even at the end (Dennis Auerswald) denied murdering her,” said Elaine Bertram, who knew the Auerswalds through their church.

“Actually, I’m concerned about his soul right now,” said Erva Perz, who testified in last month’s trial.

She said his denials of guilt “were all lies.”

Auerswald reportedly came home from work at 6:15 p.m. Feb. 9, 2009, to find his wife lying on the ground unresponsive. According to testimony, he refused to call 911, citing various reasons like the inability to pay the bills and the desire to avoid embarrassment for his wife.

Instead, Perz and her husband drove from Brunswick to pick up the Auerswalds and take them to Medina Hospital. Maureen Auerswald arrived there around 7:40 p.m.

Several doctors and friends of the Auerswalds have testified Dennis Auerswald appeared unshaken by his wife’s condition and he offered little comfort to her as she died.

The day after her death, he called insurance companies to inquire about her life insurance policies.

An autopsy later showed she died of acute intoxication from ethylene glycol — the main ingredient in antifreeze.

Medina police found a bottle of antifreeze in the garage of the Auerswalds’ Medina home, but they never found any cups used to drink the antifreeze or drinks used to mix it.

Auerswald’s defense said that meant the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence to convict Auerswald of murder. However, prosecutors said that proved Auerswald cleaned up the scene before taking his wife to the hospital.

In addition to sentencing Auerswald on Monday, Collier found him not guilty on a count of forgery. The jury was kept in a separate room during last month’s trial while Collier heard testimony on that charge.

A Medina police officer said that when he pulled Auerswald over in May 2009 traffic stop, Auerswald did not offer him a driver’s license. The officer said he searched Auerswald’s vehicle and found an apparently doctored Illinois driver’s license.

The officer said he later cut the license apart and found it was actually in the name of Maureen Auerswald. A picture of Dennis Auerswald, his name and his signature apparently had been placed over his wife’s information. The license then was laminated again.

Collier said Monday that, while Auerswald possessed the doctored license, he did not offer it as his own.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.