A doctor was found dead with two shots. The initial investigation and his wife’s story indicated it was a suicide, but forensic analysis reveals a different story.
Questions such as: What forensic evidence and analysis help the case? Who killed the doctor? What was the motive? are discussed in this case study of Darryl Sutorius and Della Dante Sutorius case.
You can find the case in Forensic Files season 5 episode 16 named “Second Shot at Love“.
Summary of Killing Dr. Darryl Sutorius (Second Shot at Love Case)
Incident: In the year 1996, heart surgeon, Dr. Darryl Sutorius was found dead in the basement of his house in Cincinnati, Ohio. There were two fired shots: one on the sofa cushion and another one on fatal injury to the head. Initially, it seems to be a suicide.
Suicide Theory: Friends and family supported the suicide theory because he was suffering from prolonged depression and was on anti-depressant medication. Dr. Sutorius even told friends that he was considering suicide. Investigators also find GSR on his hand.
May not Be a Suicide: Police find some questions tempting such as why he fired the second shot? Further investigation reveals that his new wife, Della Sutorius, had a history of violence and greed for money.
Investigation: Investigators and forensic experts have their own theories about the case. Let’s find out what happens to Dr. Sutorius. Was it a suicide or an attempt of fabricating homicide?
Dr. Darryl Sutorius and His Family Background
Dr. Darryl J. Sutorius was one of the most successful and respected heart surgeons in the city of Cincinnati.
Nature: He was a very busy surgeon with poor people skills, and his coworkers perceived him as an angry man. Moreover, as per his first wife Janet, he was also impatient and demanding.
Dr. Sutorius’s First Wife & Family: He met his wife, Janet, who was a nurse at the same hospital. The couple (Dr. Sutorius & Janet) had four children together, three daughters and a son. However, they divorced after 30 years of marriage.
Second Wife: He met his second wife “Dante Britain” through a dating service. She described herself as the owner of a daycare center and recently divorced. After 4 months of dating, both get married.
Who Killed Dr. Darryl Sutorius?
In the Second Shot at Love case, Dr. Darryl Sutorius was killed by his second wife Della Dante Sutorius.
Dr. Darryl Sutorius met Dante Britain through a dating service, who became his second wife. However, Dr. Sutorius was Dante Britain’s fifth husband. She had four marriages and divorces.
On investigations, there were some important information comes out, listed as:
- Her real name was “Della Faye Hall“.
- She associated violent behaviors with their ex-husbands and boyfriends.
- She was charged with threatening her boyfriend with a gun.
- One husband found knives hidden around the house and after asking she told him she “could kill you”.
- Della’s third husband admits she repeatedly threatened to kill him.
- Fourth husband stated that she was mentally abusive and that he hides the bullets from his gun out of fear of her.
According to her sister Donna Hall, Dante approached men with wealth. Dante said to her, “you find a wealthy man and when they die, you’d get their money”.
How did Dr. Darryl Sutorius Died?
On February 19, 1996, Dr. Darryl Sutorius was found dead in the basement of the house he shared with his second wife.
There were two gunshots: one to the head that caused Dr. Sutorius’s death and the other on the sofa cushion. Authorities were initially unsure whether his death was homicide or suicide.
Sutorius’s wife, Della, was arrested the same day, for the possession of cocaine but released on bail the next day.
Re-arrested: Della Britain was arrested again on February 27, 1996, after investigators tracked the purchase of the weapon (.38 caliber pistol) from a shop 24 hours earlier to the killing under her name.
Forensic Analysis and Questions Raised in Second Shot at Love Case
Initial investigation states it may be a suicide but soon it qualifies as one the homicide case. Following are the questions that were raised in Second Shot at a love case.
Question 1: Why there are two Fired Shots?
As I stated earlier, there were two shots that had been fired. One into the sofa cushion, the other to the head.
Firstly, it is common. There have been far too many incidents in which multiple shots were fired as a test to ensure the weapon was ready to fire.
However, the crucial proof was their order of firing.
Question 2: How did Della not Know Her Husband had Committed Suicide?
At the crime scene, the blood was dried and rigor mortis was set in. This means he was dead for at least one day or two.
So, how Della doesn’t know, her husband was missing? Even she doesn’t report a missing complaint. A nurse at the hospital called the police and stated that Dr. Sutroius was not responding since yesterday.
Question 3: Why Denta Doesn’t hear the Gunshot that was even heard by Neighbours?
Denta was asked about the gunshot sound by investigators. She stated that she hadn’t heard any gunshots.
But their neighbor states a different story. They stated they heard gunshots a few nights earlier from Sutroius’s home.
Question 4: Firearm Purchased by Denta Britain Just 24 hrs before the Killing
Denta Britain bought the pistol from a local store just 24 hrs earlier that killed Dr. Sutroius. She can’t able to explain why she brought it and how the pistol was within reach of her husband.
Question 5: Blood Settled first then GSR particles: How it was possible?
According to blood analysis and GSR traces on the sofa and hands, blood settled first, followed by GSR traces.
This means the first shot killed Dr. Sutroius. This raises the fact that who fired the second shot and it all revert back to Della Britain.
Question 6: Blood Spatter on Sutroius’s Hand Raised a Question
When the bullet entered the right ear of Dr. Sutroius, there was no exit wound. Blood expelled from the mouth and nose spattered on various parts of the crime scene including the sofa, hands, and clothing.
More surprisingly, the blood was present on the palmer sides of the right hand which was supposed to be the hand that pulled the trigger. And if he was holding it, there should be no blood spatter on the palmer side.
Forensic blood analysts state two more findings:
- His right hand was very close to his face, and his hand was moved after the blood exhalation.
- It appeared that Sutorius’s right arm was in his lap at the time of the fatal shot, and not behind his head holding the gun.
Question 7: Blood Spatter at 45° Front to Sofa: How it was possible?
In the basement, there was a gunshot wound over the head that result in blood spatter. However, there was also blood spatters arcing on the lower front side of the sofa in front of the body.
These spatters were at a 45° angle to the sofa. This clearly states that blood should be directed from the front of the sofa not from the fatal shot from back of the sofa.
Later, it was revealed that it was flung from Dante’s hand when she tried to shake off blood from her hand.
Della Sutrious Motive for Killing Dr. Darryl
There was majorly two possible motive of Della Dante Sutrious: one was the money (most conclusive) and the second was the problem with rejection.
Motive 1: Fear of Losing Money
Dr. Sutorius had a pension plan of $1 million that she was entitled to his wife. With time, Dr. Sutorius had a second thought about his new marriage. He also considering divorce. And if he divorced Dante Britain, she only gets a monthly allowance between $1000 to $2000.
Motive 2: Jealously and Rejection Coping Behaviors
Darryl’s Daughter’s Wedding: Della had a fight with Dr. Sutorius when she knows he was going to take responsibility for her daughter’s wedding.
Both fought and she state that “you spent too much money on your children“. She also went off purchasing, and overdue credit cards so he can’t lean money on his daughter’s wedding. She thinks all of his husband’s money was for her. She didn’t want to share it.
Punishment in Dr. Sutrious Killing Case by Della
Della Dante Sutorius was found guilty and pressed with aggravated murder. She was sentenced to life in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until 2014.
Note: Aggravated murder is a murder made more serious by its violent circumstances.
Watch the Forensic File Case: Second Shot to Love [YouTube].