May 1, 2013 in City

Insurance may be motive in poisoning attempt

By The Spokesman-Review
Nicole Hensley photo

Jacob P. Forster, 32, waits for his appearance in Whitman County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon. He is charged with allegedly trying to poison his wife of six years.
(Full-size photo)

COLFAX – Investigators suspect a graduate student studying chemistry at Washington State University tried to poison his wife with nitrogen gas to collect on her $1 million insurance policy.

Whitman County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Jacob P. Forster, 32, on Tuesday after his wife of six years reported an assault.

Forster obtained a pressured tank of nitrogen gas using his status as a graduate student at WSU, according to recently filed court documents in Whitman County Superior Court.

His wife told deputies that Forster placed a cardboard box over her head around 3 a.m. on March 27 and attached a clear tube to the box so she would breathe a toxic amount of gas.

Forster, however, told investigators he was considering committing suicide by asphyxiation in a way that would look like cardiac arrest.

He also said he put the box over his wife’s head and watched a clock with a missing second hand so that she would not wake up while he killed himself using the same method.

“If you breathe in nitrogen it will reduce the oxygen level in the blood and there will be nothing for the coroner to find other than the heart stopped,” Forster told Deputy Randy Zehm. He had a $500,000 life insurance policy on himself with an exception for suicide.

A nitrogen gas overdose is not detectable in a toxicology report because about 78 percent of air is composed of nitrogen, said a King County medical examiner. The only indicator of such an overdose is determined by circumstances of an investigation.

Forster said he put the box over his wife’s head and watched a clock with a missing second hand so she would not wake up while he killed himself using the same method. He reportedly held the box over his wife for 30 seconds before she woke up, court documents show.

“When she woke up, she thought the box was just sitting on her head,” court documents said. “She said she felt it and then had a sense of panic. She did try to push it off of her, but she could not move it.”

Forster told his wife he had been contemplating suicide because he had been diagnosed with depression, and school was not going well.

Forster was planning on attending an expensive dentistry school in California in the fall, he told deputies. His wife said it would likely cost Forster nearly $300,000 to attend.

Last year, Forster convinced his wife to pursue life insurance policies. Forster’s policy of was approved the day before the alleged poisoning while his wife’s $1 million policy was approved in February. He told Zehm he would be lying if he said he didn’t think of her insurance policy while he attempted to poison her, court documents show.

Forster is now in custody at Whitman County Jail with a bond of $250,000. He’s expected to be arraigned on May 10.

A more in-depth version of this story will appear in print tomorrow.

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