Engineer Paul Curry on Trial for Fatally Poisoning Wife with Nicotine

Paul Curry on Trial for Fatally Poisoning Wife with Nicotine
Paul Curry

09/12/2014 AT 06:45 PM EDT

Twenty years after the suspicious death of Linda Curry, her husband, nuclear engineer Paul Curry, is on trial for allegedly injecting her with a lethal amount of nicotine in order to collect over $500,000 from her life insurance policy.

"Linda Curry was for him nothing more than a paycheck," Orange County Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh told jurors during opening statements on Tuesday in Santa Ana, California. "He was greedy, wanted money and for that he killed his wife."

Although initially interviewed by police after Linda's death in 1994, investigators were unable to charge Curry, now 57, with the murder until a new investigation was launched in 2007, reports The Orange County Register. By then he had remarried and moved to Salina, Kansas, where he ran the county's building inspection department.

The day after Linda's funeral, Curry – who has been in jail since his arrest for murder and insurance fraud in 2010 – began requesting payments from Linda's life insurance provider. Months later when police questioned Curry about his wife's mysterious death, he'd purchased a new Cadillac, Baytieh said in opening statements.

Curry's public defender, Lisa Kopelman, told jurors that Linda, who was a non-smoker, had suffered from a number of chronic ailments and the nicotine found in her system may been used to treat her irritable bowel syndrome.

"She was very, very desperate to find a cure," said Kopelman.

On Thursday, toxicologist Dr. Neal Benowitz testified that Linda probably died less than 30 minutes after being injected with the poison that "paralyzes" the body's respiratory muscles.

"I've never seen levels [of nicotine] like this in any blood sample," he told jurors.

Linda was allegedly suspicious of her husband. According to court documents, a month before her death at the age of 50, she told her sister that if she got sick again, Curry "should not be allowed near her in the hospital."

If convicted of his wife's death, Curry faces life in prison.

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