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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2014

Union County man charged with poisoning paralyzed wife


A Union County man was in court this afternoon to answer to charges that he poisoned his paraplegic wife with drugs and killed her in September.

Debra Costell’s death was no mercy killing, Union County Prosecutor David Phillips said.

Jon Costell, 56, called 911 on Sept. 25, 2013, from his S. Mill Street home in Milford Center and said his wife wasn’t breathing. She was dead when paramedics arrived.

Now, authorities have charged him with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, failing to provide for a functionally impaired person and domestic violence.

Union County Coroner Dr. David Applegate ruled 58-year-old Debra Costell’s death a homicide after an autopsy and months of interviews with health-care workers, nurses, doctors and Ohio’s leading toxicology expert indicated she died of a toxic combination of the prescription drugs Sertraline and Tramadol — painkillers and anti-depressants — in her system.

Both had been prescribed to her, Phillips said.

Phillips said there had been a history of trouble between the couple and that Jon Costell had three times before been charged with domestic violence. In addition, home-health care workers and nurses had, over time, filed various complaints and reports of trouble at the home, Phillips said.

Debra Costell had been hospitalized last fall for bed sores and was then moved to a nursing home. But in August, against doctors’ advice, her husband took her home and fired her home-health care workers.

After her death, Applegate ordered the autopsy in part because of the past trouble, Phillips said.

The state’s Medicaid office then stepped in and provided information about some questionable behavior that had made it difficult to keep nurses and home-health workers on the case either because Jon Costell didn’t want them or because the conditions at the home were so untenable the workers couldn’t continue, Phillips said.

Jon Costell was arrested after a Union County grand jury indicted him on Monday. He was arraigned in Union County Common Pleas Court this afternoon. Bond was set at $500,000.

The case was investigated by Union County’s Multi-Agency Drug Enforcement Task Force.

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