June 13

This Day in History

Crime

Jun 13, 2006:

Jurors begin deliberations in Susan Polk trial

On June 13, 2006, jurors began deliberations in the trial of Susan Polk, 48, for the October 2002 murder of her psychotherapist husband Felix Polk, 70, in a poolside cottage at the couple's Orinda, California, home. Felix was stabbed and cut 27 times and had suffered blunt force trauma to the head.

Susan and Felix met when Susan was a teenager under his psychological care. According to Polk, they began a sexual relationship while she was still in her teens, and married when she was 24 and he was 40. The couple, who had raised three sons together, was in the midst of an ugly divorce at the time of Felix's murder. Two of the sons testified against their mother at the trial, which was characterized by Susan’s strange courtroom behavior and frequent outbursts.

Prosecutors theorized that, upon learning that she might lose the couple's valuable house, a large portion of spousal support and custody of her youngest child in the divorce, Susan made a surprise visit to the cottage, in which Felix was staying, and then hit him on the head with a flashlight before stabbing him to death. After her husband was found dead, police found Susan to have bruise-like marks around her eyes, bite marks on her hand and a welt on her shoulder, though she initially denied any involvement in Felix's death. After her DNA was found at the scene of the crime, she went public with a story that she had stabbed Felix in self-defense, and that he had drugged and raped her as a teenager and then physically abused her on a daily basis throughout their marriage. Susan also admitted to tampering with evidence, including washing and putting away the murder weapon, washing her clothes and abandoning her husband’s car at a train station.

Susan, who represented herself at trial, claimed that she had been attacked by Felix with the knife, and had stabbed him after managing to wrestle the knife away from him. According to a defense medical witness, Felix died of a heart attack while attacking Susan and then fell on the floor and hit his head.

On June 16, 2005, Susan Polk was found guilty of second-degree murder. Afterward, jurors explained that they had found her testimony and her account of Felix’s death and difficult to believe. She was later sentenced to 16 months to life in prison, the maximum penalty.

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