Woodstock man convicted in poisoning case

Michael Sweeney

WOODSTOCK – A Woodstock man pleaded no contest Wednesday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to poisoning his wife with rubbing alcohol he slipped into her alcoholic drinks over a one-month period in 2014.

The defendant, Michael Stanley Sweeney, 58, formerly of 208 Hoover Road, Woodstock, was arrested after a laboratory test of vodka taken from a bottle in Sweeney’s household detected the presence of rubbing alcohol.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kristen Zalenski read a statement of the prosecution’s evidence in the case. Zalenski said a friend of Sweeney’s wife captured statements from him on tape during which he admitted he was poisoning his wife.

Zalenski said Sweeney told the witness that he had grown weary of years of “criticism, ridicule, (and) being torn down,” by his wife.

But the victim later told authorities that her husband had a different motive for poisoning her, Zalenski said.

“She stated she has a $100,000 life insurance policy, and that’s why she thought he was trying to kill her,” Zalenski said.

Zalenski said a toxicologist with the state Department of Forensic Science told authorities that victims of poisoning from rubbing alcohol suffer from a breakdown in liver and stomach linings and have trouble breathing, the same symptoms Sweeney’s wife was complaining of at the time of the offense, which spanned from early October to early November 2014.

Judge Dennis L. Hupp accepted the plea, ordered a pre-sentence report on Sweeney and set a sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. April 27.

Poisoning or attempting to poison someone carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison. Sweeney is likely to receive far less than that under terms of his plea agreement. Zalenski agreed to recommend no more than the upper end of the sentencing guideline range established by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com