Diane Fleming Murder Case
Murder by methanol looks at the Diane Fleming murder case. She was convicted of murder and got 30 years for poisoning her husband with methanol and 20 years for adulteration of a substance with methanol.
Despite overwhelming additional expert evidence of her innocence, Diane Fleming is still locked up, with no hope of a retrial. Misdemeanours by the prosecution add to the farce and the possible wrong diagnosis by the hospital and hence the likely wrong treatment which led to Chuck’s death. An inefficient and incomplete autopsy added to this saga, with the medical examiner not checking and reporting on levels of formic acid, nor for optic nerve damage, despite these conditions being the known symptoms of methanol poisoning.
UPDATE…Diane has been released, see the end of the article
Charles (Chuck) Fleming was a fitness fanatic and wanted to increase his musculature so he bought some ‘creatine’ which promised to do just that. Helped by his wife, they put at least 3x the recommended dose into some bottles of Gatorade. Evidently Chuck misread the instructions, using a tablespoon to measure instead of a teaspoon. After drinking the best part of a bottle of the Gatorade/creatine mix, Chuck started to feel unwell and went to bed early. He was still feeling ill the next morning but went to work. After a while he felt too ill and came home within a couple of hours. When Diane came home, she found him on the sofa groaning. He refused medical help but became very ill and Diane dialled 911. He was taken to hospital later that same day. Chuck died at 1630hrs on June 14, 2000. The autopsy stated that Chuck Fleming had died from ‘acute methanol poisoning’.
In February 2002 Diane Fleming was brought to court charged with murdering her husband by methanol poisoning. (Case No. CR01F01484-01, Commonwealth of Virginia v Diane Fleming).
The presecution led by prosecutor, Warren B Von Schuch concentrated on a number of points including the two major ones of:
- Diane gave a friend a harddrive to keep which had evidence on it that they say proved that Diane was plotting to poison her husband. It was found that a search was done for “methanol poisoning” supposedly in May, a month before Chuck’s death.
- The tension in the household regarding Chuckie the stepson and Chuck the stepdad. Chuck had given Chuckie an ultimatum that he must leave by August and get his own place.
Other salient points for the prosecution were:
- Chuck Fleming had an affair 4 years earlier which the prosecution suggested Diane was still aggrieved by, giving her a motive to kill her husband.
- There was a $400,000 life insurance policy on Chuck Fleming which Diane would be the recipient of in the event of his death.
- There was a bottle of screen wash which contained methanol in the garage which supposedly was used to spike the Gatorade.
The defence concentrated on Diane’s openness when the police came to check the house for clues to her husband’s poisoning. Their main points were:
- Why would she not throw away the Gatorade if she had spiked it, knowing that the police were to visit. She actually showed the police what Chuck had been drinking.
- Why would she have poisoned Gatorade and put it in the fridge for anyone to drink, especially as her parents were visiting and the high chance that her children may drink it too.
- The Gatorade was mixed with Creatine by both Chuck and Diane.
As for the prosecutions main points about the harddrive and the tension between Chuck and Chuckie, the defence countered:
- Diane admitted to researching Methanol Poisoning but said she did it whilst Chuck was in hospital, after the doctors had phoned and told her what was wrong with him. The defence also countered that the dates on harddrives were unreliable as computers often display spurious dates that do not necessarily correlate with the date and time something was actually done.
- The reason she hid the harddrive was to protect her son. Not because she thought he was guilty but because she thought that if the police picked up on his strange interests, ie. violent films and images, they may presume he was capable of killing. So to be on the safe side she gave the harddrive to a friend for safe keeping. The friend gave the harddrive up to the police after being advised to do so by a relative in the police force.
- The defence explained that the affair that happened 4 years previously, actually strengthened Diane and Chuck’s marriage and all had been forgiven and forgotten years ago.
- The defence also revealed the kindness of Diane, how she was a Sunday school teacher and did voluntary work for the homeless, working in soup kitchens and doing much for her community.
- Diane Fleming also passed a total of 3 polygraph tests ‘with flying colours’.
A miscarriage of justice!
On February, 2002, Case No. CR01F01484-01, Commonwealth Of Virginia v. Diane Fleming, Diane Fleming was tried and convicted to sentences of 30 years for murder and 20 years for adulteration, allegedly ‘spiking’ her husband’s Gatorade with methanol. The guilty verdict (the jury were out for just one hour) was a complete shock to the defence and to this day, it is not known how the jury came to such an erroneous verdict.
What jurors said
When certain members of the jury were asked why they gave a guilty verdict they said that Diane Fleming showed no emotion! Apart from this not being evidence to convict, it was unknown by the jury that Diane Fleming was taking the drug Zoloft which blunts emotional expression. Diane was also taking the narcotic drug Talwin for back pain. Talwin is a potent narcotic analgesic. Diane was an avid taker of aspartame, as was her husband. Aspartame is known to react with Zoloft to produce a ‘zombie like’ demeanour. When some jurors were approached with the fact Diane was on drugs because of her distress, they said if they had known they would have not found her guilty!
Since the sentencing of Diane Fleming, a number of other anomolies pointing to her innocence, have come to light, as follows:
- Chuck Fleming had been having health problems for months. He often complained to his wife of frequent nausea and was regularly short of breath and feeling unwell. He took numerous substances for his fitness regime and drank copious amounts (12 cans a day) of diet soda and other aspartame sweetened drinks and foods. He consume 2-4 drinks of bourbon every day. He also regularly took Tetracycline, Hydrocortisone, Beclomethasone, Naproxen, Prevacid, Multivits with Iron and then the Creatine monohydrate (which contains aspartame) of which he used triple the amount recommended.
- His doctor was not asked to testify to the state of Chuck’s health.
- The excessive amounts of aspartame he consumed could have had serious detrimental side affects on his health and does have 11% methyl alcohol in it.
- Chuck actually worked with methanol at his place of employment.
- An independent toxicologist’s report (see below) revealed that Chuck did NOT die from methanol poisoning at all. That being the case, why is Diane in jail for poisoning her husband and adulterating a substance with methanol!
- The medical examiner did not check the eyes for methanol poisoning. (Being ‘blind drunk’) comes from the effect of methanol on the eyes which causes damage and blindness. By the way, the eyes were harvested for transplants.
- The medical examiner did not check for formic acid which is a metabolite of methanol.
- Industrial methanol is coloured with a blue dye as a warning of its toxicity. No dye was found in the bottles of Gatorade used for toxicology tests.
- Chuck died from a large bleed in the brain, caused by the Heparin administered by the hospital, according to the independent toxicologist.
- The fact that the Gatorade did not have industrial methanol in it was known by the prosecution but the information was not given to the defence. This prosecutor Warren Von Schuch had two other previous misdemeaners ie:
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in VA, admonished Von Schuch “This prosecution team displayed a disconcerting lack of respect for its sole responsibility to ensure ‘that justice shall be done’, as opposed to merely winning the case.”
In another case, prosecutor Von Schuch’s misconduct resulted in a reversal. “The Court finds that Von Schuch acted improperly and in violation of prosecutorial obligations.”
This means that the screen wash found in the garage was not used to spike the Gatorade and the prosecution knew this from their own toxicology report.
Gatorade had NO screen wash in it
There is much evidence here to prove Diane’s innocence, not least the fact that the Gatorade was found NOT to have industrial methanol in it. Apart from that, the science of this case is quite confusing to the layperson especially with the experts coming up with various alternatives as to how and why Chuck died. Even so, they all agree that Diane did not murder her husband and that his cause of death was from consumption and/or administration of either/or:
- Excessive intake of drugs by Chuck, all of which had a drug stabilizer of propylene glycol (PEG).
- Excessive intake and addiction to aspartame which Chuck consumed in copious amounts on a daily basis and had done so for years.
- The use of Heparin by the hospital (a blood thinner) causing a massive brain bleed.
- The administration of high doses of sodium bicarbonate by the hospital, causing edema in the brain and other tissues due to anoxia.
- Excess intake of Creatine supplement and a subsequent reaction thereof to other drugs containing propylene glycol (PEG) and/or aspartame.
In an effort to get to the bottom of Chuck’s death, Diane wrote to a well known toxicologist Mohammed Ali Al-Bayati, PhD asking him to review the case. Dr. Al-Bayati has over 25 years of experience in research, teaching, diagnostic work, and serving as expert witness on many medical-legal cases in the USA and other countries involving children and adults. He did a very comprehensive and lengthy report which, for those that are interested, can be found here meanwhile, below is a sample of his findings:
“Charles (Chuck) Fleming’s acute illness developed on June 12, 2000 induced by the ingestion of toxic doses of creatine monohydrate and high levels of propylene glycol (PEG). Chuck was taking several medications contained PEG that increased creatine bioavability and caused acute renal failure, severe hypophosphatemia, and ketoacidosis…
The bleeding, edema, and necrosis observed in Chuck’s brain were caused by the high doses of heparin and sodium bicarbonate given in the Hospital…
The treating physicians and the medical examiner did not measure formic acid in Chuck’s blood, urine, stomach contents, or tissues…
The commonwealth’s allegation against Diane that she poisoned her husband with methanol is not supported by medical and scientific facts, which support Diane’s innocence…”
More than one victim
Chuck appeared to be a victim of misdiagnosis, laboratory error and possibly negligence on the part of the medical professionals caring for him. The other victims of this farce are primarily Diane Fleming and her 3 children, other family members and many friends.
Despite all the new evidence, the misdemeanours of the prosecution, the possible misdiagnosis of the hospital doctors, the possible wrong medical treatment by the hospital doctors and the lacking and incomplete autopsy by the medical examiner, on the 9th October 2008, the district court denied Diane her habeas corpus petition.
Dr Bayati stated “My review of the clinical evidence and supporting data in this case and Fierro’s autopsy findings indicates that Fierro’s allegations given in this case are not supported by the medical and scientific data as described in this report.”
No parole in Virginia State
As there is no parole in Virginia, Diane is scheduled for release in 2028 when she will be 71 years old! Her request for a new trial has been dismissed. She continues to be optimistic and is a useful member of the prison society, helping her fellow inmates when she can. Because she is an educated woman, she writes letters for other inmates and does all she can to keep their moral up. This is a gentle, selfless woman and despite her own terrible ordeal, she still tries to enhance the lives of others.
A sorry saga
She has become quite ill now but will she ever get out and see her children again? Probably not. There are too many miscreants in this sorry saga and they will all continue to close ranks to avoid their shortcomings being exposed at the expense of an innocent woman’s freedom. It appears there is nobody in the Virginia justice system who is willing to step up and fight for Diane’s release. What a sorry state of affairs and a disgrace to the Justice system of Virginia County, USA.
UPDATE – Diane has been released, here is a letter from Diane herself:
This is Diane. I was released on January 26th and am staying with friends, adjusting to changes in technology, and generally decompressing as I try to get back on my feet. The Parole Board deciding to granot me geriatric parole the very first year eligible was undoubtedly due to the overwhelming show of support from people I’ve come to know all over the world. They were also presented with the same evidence of my innocence that was in my petition for an Absolute Pardon and is still before the governor. Please pray now that I will also soon be exonerated.
I’m doing very well and just wanted everyone to know that.