UPDATE January 12, 2018: The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports Kaitlyn Conley, convicted of manslaughter in the death of her boss, was sentenced by Oneida County Court Judge Michael Dwyer to a determinate sentence of 23 years in prison with five years post-release supervision. She could have been sentenced to anywhere from five to 25 years.
Conley, 24, received the sentence at the end of a roughly two-and-a-half-hour hearing in which both sides made statements. An appeal is expected, the Observer-Dispatch reports.
Oct. 26, 2016
In New York, a beloved chiropractor dies suddenly. When her autopsy reveals she overdosed on a prescription she didn't take, police believe they have a murder on their hands.
New York chiropractor Mary Yoder, 60, attended to her patients at her Whitesboro Medical Practice, a successful chiropractic business she and her husband Bill have owned for more than 30 years.
Yoder became ill one Sunday after seeing patients throughout the day. Not able to shake her sickness, Yoder went home early around 4:30 p.m.
"She doesn't know what she's sick from, she's just having diarrhea and vomiting at this time," said Oneida County Sheriff's Lieutenant Robert Nelson.
Mary Yoder is usually the picture of health. Part of her medical practice included a belief in holistic medicine and herbal supplements, even growing some of her own herbs in her cherished home garden.
Back at her home, Yoder decides to try and sleep it off. But by morning her symptoms have taken a turn for the worse.
"The following morning her husband, Bill, brings her to the St. Luke's emergency room," said Nelson.
Yoder is admitted to the hospital and doctors run a battery of tests trying to identify what's making her so violently ill. It's now been over 24 hours since she first became sick.
"At 10 p.m. she gets up and she falls in the room at the hospital and after that, they admit her into I.C.U. at the hospital, where she just continues to deteriorate," said Nelson.
By morning, Yoder suffers her first heart attack, followed by seven more.
"Then the final one in the afternoon is when she passes away," said Nelson.
Just 48 hours after leaving her office, on July 22, 2015, Yoder is dead. Cause of death? Doctors are at a loss. Since Yoder dies under the hospital's care, a routine autopsy is ordered.
"They look at the slides underneath the microscope -- there's something not right," said Nelson.
Yoder's tissues and organs show they are under attack. It's a telltale sign of poison.
The medical examiner's office contacts Poison Control for help. They test Mary Yoder's body for common arsenic and cyanide poisons. The results are negative. Two months pass, and chemists at Poison Control get a positive hit.
"She died from Colchicine, a toxicity which poisoned her," said Utica Observer-Dispatch crime reporter Micaela Parker.
Colchicine, when used properly, is an effective medicine for treating gout, is an inflammation of the joints.
But if you don't have gout?
"A little dab will do it," said Lt. Nelson. "It takes only a minute amount to get somebody sick or kill them."
"Colchicine toxicity causes fever, abdominal cramping, vomiting -- basically all of your liquids leave your body," said Parker.
Now that they know the substance that killed her, investigators have to find out how it got in her body.
"She has a garden and she had taken something from the garden, and she also takes supplements, so they were also looking at the supplements to see if there was any contamination with supplements they had collected and sent out for tests," said Nelson.
The results: No contamination. It was no accident. And suicide is ruled out after investigators speak with friends and family.
That leaves just one unsettling option: "Somebody murdered her," said Nelson.
Mary Yoder's death is ruled a homicide by the medical examiner's office. But who poisoned her?
"Anytime anyone dies, the spouse is somebody that's looked at, usually very hard, and for good reason. Oftentimes they're responsible for it," said Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara.
On the day Yoder became ill, her ever-present husband, Bill, was absent from the office. According to the Oneida County Sheriff's Department, they didn't have much more information about Bill's whereabouts that day, other than he wasn't at work.
Not long after Mary Yoder died, he reportedly started dating her sister.
"At this point we're still looking at Bill as our primary suspect if he is responsible," said Lt. Nelson.
Then authorities receive anonymous letters.
"The Onondaga medical examiner's office calls the sheriff's department, they've received an anonymous letter that claims to have information regarding the case," said reporter Micaela Parker. "That same day, the Oneida County Sheriff's Office receives an identical copy of that letter claiming the same."
The letters claimed to know who poisoned Mary Yoder.
"They pointed to Mary Louise Yoder's youngest child, Adam Yoder," said Parker.
And the letters identify the lethal lacing by name: Colchicine.
Cops rule out Bill Yoder and turn their focus on the son. Adam is quickly brought in for questioning, and he's grilled about the letters.
"We tell him some stuff that's in the letter, it's saying there was some evidence in Adam's car that we would be interested in," said Lt. Nelson.
Sheriff's deputies inspect the car and just as it was described in the letter, under the passenger's seat, they find it.
"A bottle of Colchicine, a cardboard wrapper, and receipt detailing the transaction, and that receipt has an email address that is similar to several that Mr. Yoder has," said Parker.
Cops appear to have their prime suspect. Now they just need to corroborate their findings and interview potential witnesses. They start with those who know Adam best, like his on-and-off girlfriend, Kaitlyn Conley.
"When Mary Yoder died, Katie was identified as a loved one in her obituary," said Parker.
Conley also worked for the Yoders at their chiropractic business.
"She works the front desk, she's borderline receptionist, office manager, she's been working there for four years," said Parker.
Conley was very close with Yoder and her family and even wrote a Facebook post the day after Yoder died. She wrote "If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever," and ends with the thought, "God has gained the best angel. We love you."
Detectives figure if anything suspicious was going on between Adam and his mother, Conley might know about it.
"We were hoping she would be a witness and provide us information about Dr. Yoder," said Lt. Nelson. "She's pointing the finger at Adam."
While investigators bring in Conley for another interview, explosive details come back from the state police forensics lab: They believe the letters originated from the Yoders' place of business, and they've tested the anonymous letters for DNA.
"They said there was female DNA underneath the stamp," said Nelson.
Investigators ask Conley for a DNA sample, and she readily offers it up.
"She describes to us what she does in the office, as far as she pre-stamps the envelopes," said Lt. Nelson.
Kaitlyn Conley even reportedly brings in envelope samples and letterhead from the office.
At this same time detectives take another look at the evidence collected from Adam's car. Along with the poison was the receipt and an email address attached to the transaction.
"When he's questioned about this, Adam says it's similar to some that I have but that's not my account," said Parker.
The email address has only been accessed in two places: at Kaitlyn Conley's home and on her cellphone.
Investigators are starting to believe that Adam Yoder was being framed, and that the evidence in his car was planted. As detectives enter into their fourth and final interview with Conley, she continues to point the finger at her ex-boyfriend, Adam. And to detectives, her story sounds oddly familiar.
"We had always believed that whoever wrote this letter is responsible for Mary's death," said Lt. Nelson.
So detectives ask her flat out if she wrote the anonymous letter.
"At which time she admitted that she was the author of the letter, she wrote the letter," said Lt. Nelson.
Kaitlyn Conley is no longer a witness.
"From that point on she was a number one suspect for us," said Nelson.
Conley was arrested and charged with Mary Yoder's murder. She is currently out on bond while awaiting trial.
Investigators aren't clear on her motives for killing her boss and framing her one-time boyfriend.
Crime Watch Daily visited Conley's home to get her side of the story, without success.
Kaitlyn Conley is charged with second-degree murder and forgery related to allegedly purchasing the drug that killed her boss. Prosecutors did offer Conley a plea deal, the terms of which were not disclosed. But Conley, 23, turned it down. She maintains she's innocent. Her trial is expected to begin in February 2017.