A New York woman has been charged with trying to fatally poison her estranged husband by slipping dangerous chemicals into his drinks, sometimes with the assistance of the couple’s young child, prosecutors said.
Renee Burke and Matthew Burke were in the midst of a divorce and custody battle last fall when the Long Island mother allegedly broke into his home and poured antifreeze into his drinks, Suffolk County prosecutors said.
Renee, 40, allegedly entered the residence at least three times to tamper with his drinks, and the last attempt was caught on video, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini told reporters Thursday.
In one instance, she allegedly poured antifreeze into a wine bottle, in another incident she allegedly slipped antifreeze into a soda bottle, and a third time caught on video saw her allegedly pouring antifreeze again into a wine bottle, Sini said.
During the incident allegedly captured on camera, Renee was with the couple’s then-8-year-old daughter, Sini said.
On Sept. 6, Matthew poured himself a glass of wine, but immediately spit it out, thinking it had gone bad, Newsday reported. But later his children’s babysitter told him that his son, 5, told her, “Mommy came in and put something in Daddy’s drink.”
Two days later, Matthew experienced the same thing with a bottle of Pepsi, and a neighbor then told police that she saw a woman with a child entering the home that day.
Police advised Matthew to set up a surveillance camera in his kitchen, and on Sept. 12, it allegedly captured the third incident.
The video apparently showed a woman removing a bottle of wine from the fridge and instructing a young girl to remove the cork.
The woman could then be seen pouring a pink liquid from two baby bottles into the wine before putting it back into the refrigerator, Newsday reported. While this was going on, Robin’s 4-year-old son was apparently left unattended in her car, the paper wrote.
Police said Robin told them she hadn’t doctored any drinks in her estranged husband’s home, but she later allegedly said she poured fruit juice into the wine.
Robin allegedly consented to a search of her cellphone, where detectives found evidence of internet searches related to antifreeze, rat poison and specific queries to find “what car liquids could kill a human?” Sini said.
Investigators obtained a search warrant for Robin’s home, where they allegedly found a bottle of Prestone antifreeze, which is pink.
Forensic testing of Matthew’s wine and soda bottles showed evidence of ethyl glycol, the main component of antifreeze, according to prosecutors.
If ingested, antifreeze can cause headaches, kidney failure, nausea, paralysis, blindness, brain damage, seizures and death, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Robin was charged with second-degree attempted murder, second-degree attempted assault, second-degree burglary and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Calling Robin a “dangerous individual,” Sini said he planned to prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law.
“This is obviously a troubling case,” Sini said.
Robin has pleaded not guilty. She was ordered held on bail of $200,000 cash or $400,000 bond. Her attorney reportedly denied the charges in court Thursday.
“Before you stands a mother who has fought hard for her children,” her lawyer, Joel Salinger, said, according to Newsday. He said there is “no direct evidence that what my client might – might – have put in the drinks was antifreeze.”
“This is mostly all about her children, OK, and making sure she can continue to be a mother to those children,” Salinger reportedly said.
Matthew had previously been awarded custody of their children and Renee had been given limited visitation, according to Newsday. An order of protection had also been issued for Renee to not harm them, the paper reported.