Carolyn Warmus Trials: 1991 & 1992
Carolyn Warmus Trials: 1991 & 1992
Defendant: Carolyn Warmus
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: First trial: David L. Lewis; second trial: William I. Aronwald
Chief Prosecutors: Douglas J. Fitzmorris and James A. McCarty
Judge: John Carey
Place: White Plains, New York
Dates of Trials: First Trial: January 14—
April 27, 1991; second trial: January 22-May 27, 1992
Verdicts: First trial: mistrial; second trial: guilty
Sentence: 25 years to life
SIGNIFICANCE: Obsession, deadly and destructive, was never more chillingly illustrated than in this trial resulting from one woman's determination to have the man she craved at any cost.
For several weeks following the January 15. 1989 shooting of Betty Jeanne Solomon in her Westchester County, New York home, husband Solomon was the chief suspect. But when police learned that Solomon's longtime lover, Carolyn Warmus, had been more relentless than ever in her pursuit of the reluctant widower, official attention turned toward this 27-year-old Manhattan schoolteacher. Their investigation revealed a woman with a turbulent history of romantic fixations, most often with unavailable men. But there was other evidence, too, enough to warrant a murder indictment against Warmus. Guaranteed immunity from prosecution, Solomon agreed to testify against his former lover when her trial began January 14, 1991.
In his opening statement, chief prosecutor James A. McCarty described Warmus as driven by a "consuming passion to possess" Solomon. McCarty conceded the lack of any single piece of proof that would on its own prove Warmus guilty, but "like pieces of a puzzle," he said, circumstantial evidence would "reveal a clear picture of the killer … Carolyn Warmus."
David L. Lewis, lawyer for the defendant, countered that his client was the victim of a "deliberate, malicious" frame-up, reminding the jury that "love and passion are not on trial here, this is a trial about murder."
The first witness to link Warmus to a potential murder weapon was private investigator James A. Russo. In the fall of 1988, Warmus had come to him, he said, seeking protection from Betty Jeanne Solomon, who was jealous about the defendant's affair with her husband. Russo had suggested a bodyguard. "Her answer was no," he said. "I pushed her to say exactly what she wanted. She said a 'machine gun and silencer,' I said, 'We're not arms dealers.'"
Solomon Tells of Unusual Marriage
When Paul Solomon took the stand he cataloged a bizarre marriage. While acknowledging that neither partner had been faithful—there had been "ups and downs"—he maintained that the union was basically sound. Responding to questions about his affair with Warmus, Solomon said that for some time he had been trying unsuccessfully to terminate the relationship. Even so, he admitted meeting Warmus on the night of the killing and having sex with her in a car. Afterward he had gone home and found his wife murdered. Unnerved by Warmus' subsequent and, he said, unwanted pestering, he confronted her in a bar. "Did you have anything to do with Betty Jeanne's death?" he asked. She replied, "No."
For five days Solomon underwent a battering at the hands of defense counsel Lewis, who insinuated that it was actually Solomon himself who had arranged the murder. "You told your wife you'd be home early, but you didn't come home early because you knew your wife was dead!"
Finally Solomon erupted. "You twist and turn words, manipulate facts … to make them what they aren't," he shouted. But Lewis scored heavily when he drew an admission from the witness that he stood to profit significantly from his wife's death, having already signed a movie contract worth $175,000.
The star prosecution witness was yet another private investigator, Vincent Parco. He testified that one week before the shooting he sold Warmus a. 25-caliber pistol—the kind used to kill Betty Jeanne Solomon—equipped with a silencer. (The murder weapon was never found.) Parco claimed he had done so only after considerable badgering by the defendant. "Almost every time I'd see her she'd bring it up." The silencer had been his idea, so she could practice in a "house, woods, or garage, and no one would know."
Vigorous Defense Launched
Lewis launched an assault on Parco's credibility, forcing him to admit his own infatuation with Warmus and asserting, without producing evidence, that it was Parco, hired by Paul Solomon, who had shot Betty Jeanne Solomon and then framed Warmus.
Strong circumstantial evidence tying Warmus to the murder came in the form of phone company records, which showed that the defendant had called a New Jersey sporting goods shop on the day of the killing. The prosecution alleged that, using fake identification, Warmus bought some. 25-caliber bullets from the store, then shot Betty Jeanne Solomon nine times before keeping her rendezvous with Paul Solomon.
In response the defense produced its own phone record. Not only did this record lack the New Jersey call, but it logged an additional 6:44 p.m. call from Warmus' Manhattan apartment, thereby making it virtually impossible for her to have committed the murder several miles away at 7:15 p.m. But the veracity of this second record was challenged by MCI executive Thomas Sabol, who declared it a forgery.
With Warmus exercising her right to silence, the major defense witness was Joseph Lisella, a building contractor. He claimed to have overheard a conversation between "Parco" and "Solomon" in a Yonkers, New York, bowling alley bathroom less than an hour after the killing. Lisella said, "Paul" handed over $20,000 to the other man, saying, "Count it if you don't believe me." Later, "Vinnie" remarked, "Don't worry about the gun. It's in the deepest part of the river."
During cross-examination McCarty attempted to impugn Lisella's credibility by outlining several house fires connected with the witness. Lisella denied McCarty's charge that "people call you 'Toaster Joe,'" but did admit to contact with Warmus' wealthy father.
Following directions from Judge John Carey, the jurors retired to consider their verdict. Twelve days later they announced themselves irretrievably deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared.
Second Trial Results in Conviction
On January 22, 1992, the state tried again. This time Warmus' defense was in the hands of William I. Aronwald, a somewhat more understated advocate than his predecessor. In essence, he had to deal with much the same evidence, except for one vital difference. Original crime-scene photographs had shown a black bloodstained glove near the body. Somehow it had vanished, only to reappear when Paul Solomon was searching a box in his bedroom closet between trials.
From Warmus' credit card records the prosecution was able to prove that the defendant had purchased just such a pair of gloves one year before the murder. Aronwald fumed, accusing McCarty of "trial by ambush," but the evidence was in and its effect was deadly, especially when forensic expert Dr. Peter DeForest gave his opinion that stains on the glove could be human blood.
Again it was no easy matter for the jurors but after a week of consideration, they convicted Warmus of murder. On June 26, 1992, Judge Carey passed sentence—25 years to life—and the blond-haired defendant was led away without ever uttering a word in her own defense.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Brady, Diane. "Fatal Attraction." Malaean's (April 8, 1991): 44-45.
Colapinto, John. "By Love Obsessed." Mademoiselle (August 1990): 188-191.
Hammer, Joshua. "Teacher, Lover, Schemer, Killer?" Newsweek (February 25, 1991): 57ff.
Kunen, Tames S. "A Dangerous Passion." People IVeekly (April 15, 1991): 34-39.