A successful surgeon’s sudden death proved to be more than just an accident in May 2001. When David Stephens died, almost everyone believed his deteriorating health finally gave out. However, the authorities learned it was much more than that. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Scorned: Love Kills: Bedside Manner’ delves into how David’s death was, in reality, murder. So, let’s find out what happened then, shall we?
How Did David Stephens Die?
David Bolam Stephens moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1987 with his then-wife and two children. He founded a heart clinic at one of the hospitals there and eventually became the Chief of Surgery there. The 59-year-old had married Stephanie, a nurse at the hospital much younger than him, in 1997. However, David was hit with a flurry of health issues over the next few years and had been on a liver transplant list.
The surgeon was diagnosed with hepatitis C, diabetes, and a stroke in the past, leading to him being unable to work. On the morning of May 1, 2001, Stephanie woke up to find that her husband was dead. David was in his bed, face-up and arms crossed. By all accounts, the case seemed to be open and shut. Everyone believed he died in his sleep. However, a routine blood test turned the investigation on its head.
Who Killed David Stephens?
It was revealed that Stephanie had tried to get rid of David’s insulin pump quickly. After the death, blood drawn from David was sent for a test, and the results were suspicious. The blood contained chemicals that weren’t native to it. So, the authorities began digging into the couple’s past. David and Stephanie were both married to others when they first met at the hospital. The two then started an affair that lasted a few years until David’s wife, Karen, discovered it in 1995.
At the time, Karen confronted David about the relationship, and she had a gun in her mouth while in the driveway. There, she slipped, and the gun went off. Karen was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to her head, but she died a few months later, with the death being ruled a suicide. Then, David married Stephanie in 1997, and the couple seemed to have been doing well. However, David’s recent health crisis meant that the money was tight. Furthermore, Stephanie also had health complications, rendering her unable to work.
The initial examination of the blood revealed the presence of etomidate, a drug generally used by an anesthesiologist. David’s body was then exhumed, and an autopsy was conducted. This time around, the authorities learned of another drug in his system — laudanosine, a metabolite of atracurium, which is used as a muscle relaxant during surgery for people on life support. The cause of death was then changed to laudanosine overdose and etomidate toxicity.
The authorities believed that Stephanie used the insulin pump to administer the drugs, killing David. The evidence seemed to point to a financial motive. Back then, David would receive a letter from his pension fund for an option that allowed him to cash out. Every year, David would sign and choose to have the money carried forward to the following year. The letter, which usually came on May 1, turned out to be a crucial piece of evidence.
It appeared that the document was signed by David on April 30, 2001, choosing the option to cash out. However, the letter itself arrived on May 1, leading to suspicion. There was also the fact that Stephanie had remarried by June 2002 and spent an $80,000 annuity in about a month. With enough circumstantial evidence pointing to her guilt, she was arrested in September 2002.
How Did Stephanie Stephens Die?
Stephanie stood trial about a year after the arrest. One of the prosecution’s witnesses was a friend of Stephanie and her husband, Karen Burnette. She testified that Stephanie admitted to having a part in David’s death. According to her, David told Stephanie about wanting to die and asked for her help. So, Stephanie had injected him with two sedatives and heart medication. Ultimately, a jury found her guilty of murder, and she was sentenced to life in prison in September 2003. Stephanie spent three years behind bars before succumbing to double pneumonia on October 14, 2006. She died at a hospital in Mississippi at the age of 38.
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