Law & Odor

updated 05/26/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sgt. Janelle Atlas thought she smelled a hoax when David Taylor shuffled into the Martin County (Fla.) Sheriff's office. "We saw this feeble-looking guy wearing a mask, telling the deputy that his wife was trying to kill him—with perfume," says Sergeant Atlas. "Not to be callous, but we were like, 'Sure, buddy.' " Then Taylor, 46, pulled out a letter from his doctor confirming that he is severely allergic to many common substances, and all at once the cops' sense of urgency ratcheted up a few notches. Says Atlas: "That changed our tone."

Three weeks later, on May 8, Taylor's wife, Lynda, 36, was under arrest, charged with aggravated battery. According to David, Lynda knew very well that he is so chemically sensitive that even hair spray and deodorant are unbearable to him. Nevertheless, he says, in March she began using plug-in air fresheners, wearing perfume, scattering lavender sachets around their Jensen Beach, Fla., home and even spraying Lysol in his face. It was all, he claimed, because he wanted a divorce—and that she balked at his proposed division of their assets, including the $100,000 worker's compensation settlement he got after claiming that mold in the property assessor's office where he worked had triggered his illness. "She never said, 'I am killing you,' " says David, who contends that he suffered headaches and numbness from his wife's actions. "But she did say, 'Soon you won't be here.' "

Lynda, also an appraiser, insists that David has exaggerated his chemical sensitivity. Although she denies spritzing him with Lysol, she does admit that she dabbed some perfume on her daughter Jackie, 17. "It was prom night," she explains. She also admits she used a plug-in. Given the tension, she says, "I was very stressed out and I read where lavender [sachets] can calm you, so I put some out." No trial date has been set, meaning that the air may not be cleared for some time.

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