The Lupe Vélez Defense: Husband Faces Second Trial Over Toilet Murder

Toilet DrowningWisconsin prosecutors are considering perjury charges against their own witness in the prior murder trial of Douglas Plude, 42, in Wisconsin while planning a new trial that will seek conviction on the basis of a new expert on alleged use of a toilet as a murder weapon.

Plude has claimed that he found his wife, Genell Plude, 28, with her head in a toilet after she committed suicide by drowning. The prosecutor, Vilas County District Attorney Al Moustakis, called upon expert witness Saami Shaibani to show that Genell could not have inhaled the water and vomit voluntarily and had to have had someone forcing her head into the toilet. To show this, Shaibani hired women to stick their heads in toilets and reenact the scene. Based on this testimony, Plude was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in 2002.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Plude after it was learned that Saibani lied about his being a clinical associated professor at Temple University and that he had only a “loose courtesy affiliation” that gave him parking privileges but little else. He now faces possible perjury charges.

Moustakis has now retained Christopher Damm of the Milwaukee School of Engineering to do a second round of tests. Damm will be allowed a courtroom toilet display to show the results of his testing.

It is not clear how the prosecution could have used such a questionable witness in the first trial without properly researching his background. The result was the waste of considerable time and resources to secure testimony that should not be hard to procure. The suicide claim seems a bit counter-intuitive and unlikely.

The defense in the case is reminiscent of the famous case of Lupe Vélez, who reportedly died during a suicide attempt. According to Hollywood legend, Vélez 180px-lupe_velez_in_laughing_boy_trailer_2 was distraught over becoming pregnant with the child of young actor Harald Maresch. She left a suicide note read, “To Harald, may God forgive you and forgive me too but I prefer to take my life away and our baby’s before I bring him with shame or killing him, Lupe.” She then took sleeping pills but became sick and ran to the bathroom to throw up — only to trip, hit her head on the commode and drown. She was reportedly found with her head in the toilet after carefully creating a beautiful suicide scene with roses around her bed.

The accuracy of this legend has been questioned. Indeed, this may have been a case of brilliant embellishment. Her secretary and companion for ten years, Beulah Kinder, offered a Kinder explanation: she was found in bed after a successful and undramatic suicide.

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4 thoughts on “The Lupe Vélez Defense: Husband Faces Second Trial Over Toilet Murder”

  1. Well this is just the Shits, ya know. But will they be a jeweler if they do? You know the Lipshitts group aka Zales.

    Or maybe an ad for lip stick or mascara or something of the like.

  2. This explains one of the more glaring headlines in our local morning news:


    Associated Press — 4/13/2009 5:56 am

    If you are a female about 5-foot-8, 140 pounds and willing to stick your head in a toilet, a northern Wisconsin prosecutor wants your help in proving a high-profile homicide case.

  3. “Her secretary and companion for ten years, Beulah Kinder, offered a Kinder explanation: she was found in bed after a successful and undramatic suicide.”


    The “pun alert” is code red today.

  4. Prof. Turley, are you sure that this case wasn’t really from Texas? This is bizarre and disturbing. Maybe the Afghan parliament can inclued in their recent law that legalizes rape the right for husbands to drown their wives on the toilet if they refuse their advances. I would hope that the first expert is given a strict penalty for his alleged perjury if found guilty. Then he won’t have to worry about parking privileges for awhile.

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