Kaitlyn A. Conley

Defense for accused killer maintains her innocence

Published Jan 11, 2017 at 1:00pm

The defense for the young Oneida County woman accused of poisoning her boss not only claims that she is innocent of the crime, but they are also pointing the finger at the victim’s husband as the real killer.

According to pre-trial paperwork filed this month, the defense is arguing that the husband of Dr. Mary L. Yoder had access to the drug used to kill her, and also entered into a romantic relationship with the victim’s sister only a few months after her death.

Prosecutors have accused Yoder’s secretary, 23-year-old Kaitlyn A. Conley, of murder and forgery. She is scheduled to go to trial in County Court on Feb. 27. The trial is expected to take up to three weeks, according to court officials.

Conley, of Sauquoit, and her defense attorney, Christopher Pelli, appeared before Judge Michael L. Dwyer on Tuesday to discuss new pre-trial motions that Pelli filed in the case. Pelli is requesting access to medical records of Yoder’s husband, Dr. William Yoder, as well as records of any marriage counseling the couple went through in the past 12 years, and telephone records of both William Yoder and one of the victim’s sisters, Kathleen Richmond.

Pelli declined to discuss his motions after court, but the paperwork explains his defense.

“The defense contends that Mr. William Yoder poisoned his wife on or about July 20, 2015, and that he had not only the means and opportunity, but the motive as well,” Pelli wrote in his paperwork.

“Conspicuously and disturbingly absent from the prosecution’s theory is any motive for the defendant’s committing this crime, which is supported only by circumstantial evidence.”

According to law enforcement, Conley poisoned Yoder with the drug colchicine at the Chiropractic Family Care office in Whitesboro, which was co-owned by the Yoders. Mary Yoder died on July 22, 2015, and her family contacted law enforcement several months later after they grew suspicious about the cause of her death.

Colchicine is a chemical medication used to treat gout.

During the course of the investigation, authorities said they received an anonymous letter that not only tried to frame Yoder’s son for the murder, but led them to find a bottle of colchicine under the son’s car seat. Authorities said Conley later admitted to writing the anonymous letter, making her their prime suspect. Authorities said they also found evidence that Conley’s cell phone was connected to the email address used to order the bottle of colchicine off the Internet.

The same investigators also said they were investigating William Yoder as a possible suspect until Conley admitted to writing the anonymous letter.

According to Pelli’s paperwork, a patient at the Yoder chiropractic office overheard Mary Yoder discussing that her husband “has gout” on July 20, which Pelli claims is evidence that William Yoder possibly had access to colchicine, which is why he is requesting Yoder’s medical records.

Pelli also claims that interviews with Mary Yoder’s other sisters reveal that the Yoder “marriage was troubled at times, so much so, that Mary and William received marriage counseling.”

Both William Yoder and Kathleen Robinson also have stated that their relationship started in the fall of 2015, according to Pelli, and he says he has witnesses who claim their relationship started even before Yoder’s death.

Assistant District Attorney Laurie Lisi, the prosecutor, argued at the court appearance on Tuesday that these are only “collateral issues” and are not relevant to Yoder’s death or the charges against Conley. Lisi said Pelli’s evidence “is nothing more than speculation, innuendo and hearsay.”

“But that being said, the People have nothing to hide here, and Mr. Yoder certainly has nothing to hide,” Lisi said in court.

She said she had no issue with Judge Dwyer reviewing the records and deciding if they could be used at trial.

Judge Dwyer said he will review the motion paperwork and will decide on the significance of Pelli’s requests at a later date, possibly during the trial itself.