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Jury acquits Federal Way man accused of poisoning wife with strychnine

Federal Way resident Joseph Naimo was acquitted on murder charges by a King County jury on June 15. - File photo
Federal Way resident Joseph Naimo was acquitted on murder charges by a King County jury on June 15.
— image credit: File photo

Joseph Naimo is a free man.

The 64-year-old Federal Way resident was acquitted on murder charges by a King County jury Wednesday after six days of deliberation in connection with the strychnine poisoning death of his wife, Ann Marie Naimo. The acquittal came after the second trial for Naimo, a pest-control general manager in Kent.

A 12-person jury announced Oct. 20, 2010, it was split 9 to 3 in its decision to convict Naimo in the first-degree murder of his wife. A mistrial was declared after seven weeks of testimony.

The jury deliberated about the case for eight days, but was unable to unanimously decide whether it had been proven without a doubt that Naimo, of Federal Way, had poisoned his wife. Nine out of 12 jurors were in favor of a guilty verdict. The jury must be in unanimous agreement to hand down a guilty or not guilty verdict.

Naimo’s second trial started the second week in April and included eight weeks of testimony. The biggest change from the first trial was that Ann Naimo’s daughter was allowed to testify that she believed her mother committed suicide and was not murdered.

Before his acquittal Wednesday, Naimo had been at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent since his arrest on May 20, 2009, in lieu of $1 million bail.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office charged Naimo with first-degree murder after his wife of 10 years was found dead on Nov. 28, 2008, in their Federal Way home. He was facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison if found guilty of first-degree murder.

Ann Naimo, 53, died from strychnine, a substance used to kill pests. Her husband was the only person with her when she died, according to court records. Toxicology tests revealed Ann, an alcoholic, also had alcohol and prescription medications in her system at the time of death.

During both trials, the prosecution argued that Naimo, who was in close contact with a female friend of Ann’s in the month preceding her death, killed his wife. The defense, in turn, argued that it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Naimo murdered his wife and Ann Naimo had ingested the poison herself in a suicide attempt.

According to court records, Ann Naimo was in good health at the time of her death and nothing physically suspicious was apparent in the autopsy. A toxicology test was ordered. The test revealed lethal levels of strychnine in Ann’s blood and stomach. Strychnine causes one’s muscles to contract, similar to a seizure, according to court documents.

A person exposed to the poison generally remains awake while the poison shuts down the respiratory system. Strychnine can be obtained in liquid, powder or crystal form. Low levels of strychnine poisoning will cause death if left untreated for 24 to 48 hours, and a high dosage could kill a person within an hour, according to the court records.

At the time of her death, Ann had a .18 blood alcohol level, according to the documents. Non-lethal amounts of prescription medications were found in her bloodstream, according to court documents. Ann was not known to be on any medications. Federal Way police began a homicide investigation.

According to police, Naimo called 911 on Nov. 28, 2008, to report that Ann wasn’t breathing. He told police the couple had been fighting that day because she had been drinking. Naimo told investigators that they were both recovering alcoholics, charging papers said.

Naimo told investigators that after the argument, his wife walked to the back bedroom and began vomiting. He said that after a couple of minutes, he found her lying on a futon. He said her eyes were open, but she was not breathing, charging documents said.

An autopsy initially found nothing suspicious, police said. But several months later, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office told police that blood tests came back showing a lethal level of strychnine in Ann Naimo’s body.


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