Nunez walks … but for how long?

Gilberto Nunez and his wife in Uptown Kingston after the verdict. (Photo: Christina Coulter)

Gilberto Nunez and his wife in Uptown Kingston after the verdict. (Photo: Christina Coulter)

A Kingston dentist accused in the 2011 poisoning death of his friend and romantic rival was acquitted of murder charges in Ulster County Court on Tuesday. But Dr. Gilberto Nunez still faces the prospect of years behind bars — the nine-man, three-woman jury also convicted him of two felonies in connection with a bizarre scheme to break up the marriage of Saugertiesians Linda Kolman, who he’d been involved with on the side, and Tom Kolman, the man he was accused of murdering.

The jury deliberated for about six hours before handing down the split verdict at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. For those who believed the 48-year-old dentist had just gotten away with murder, the verdict was a profound shock. On a bench in the back of the crowded courtroom, a Town of Ulster police detective who spearheaded the four-year effort to bring Nunez to trial sat with his head in his hands.


Linda Kolman, who testified for the prosecution about her affair with Nunez and her husband’s death, lashed out at her former lover as she was escorted from the courtroom by family members: “Lying piece of shit! Psychotic! Sociopath!”

Orange County Senior District Attorney MaryEllen Albanese, who took over the case after Ulster County DA Holley Carnright was disqualified by a conflict of interest shortly before Nunez’s 2015 indictment, left the courtroom visibly upset. Asked if she wanted to comment on the verdict, Albanese replied sternly, “I do not.” Outside the courthouse, a woman who described herself as a friend of the Kolmans but declined to give her name lamented the verdict.

“It’s heartbreaking that this man is getting away with murder,” she said. “It’s horrible.”

Nunez, meanwhile, remains free on $1 million bail as he awaits sentencing on the forgery charges and another trial on counts of perjury and insurance fraud. After the verdict he declined to comment as he left the courthouse red faced and teary-eyed accompanied by his wife (who he married sometime after Kolman’s death), his attorneys and a retinue of TV cameras.

The acquittal marked the end of a long road that began around 11 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2011 when Linda Kolman found her husband dead, slumped in the seat of his Honda Accord in the parking lot of a Town of Ulster shopping plaza where he regularly worked out at Planet Fitness. She made the discovery after Nunez called her to say that friends from Tom Kolman’s job had contacted him to ask why he hadn’t showed up. Nunez showed up at the plaza a short time later so distraught (or, as detectives would later imply, putting on an act) that he had to be restrained by cops as he lunged for the car where Kolman lay dead.

But police believe that by the time Nunez arrived at the plaza he knew Kolman was dead. Because hours earlier — around 5 a.m., prosecutors argued — he had driven to the plaza to meet with Kolman and poisoned him with a dose of the powerful sedative Midazolam. The drug is only sold to medical professionals, and only used in clinical settings. Cops believe Nunez, who kept the drug in an emergency kit, knew that even a relatively small dose of the sedative could be fatal, given Kolman’s severe sleep apnea. Prosecutors argued that Nunez dosed Kolman, probably with coffee spiked with the drug, then placed his seat in a reclining position to increase the odds that the muscles in his throat would give way due to sleep apnea and stop his breathing. Albanese argued that Nunez then undid his Kolman’s pants to make it look like he died following some kind of sexual encounter. Finally, prosecutors argued, Nunez took Kolman’s phone and erased 62 messages they exchanged immediately prior to the meeting.

At the time of Kolman’s death, Nunez was in the midst of an 11-month affair with Linda Kolman. Prosecutors argued that Nunez was “obsessed” with his friend’s wife and killed him because he feared Linda was about to break off the relationship and reconcile with her husband. Prosecutors also argued that, from almost the very start of the relationship, Nunez used anonymous text messages from a disposable “burner” phone to manipulate the couple into breaking up. At various points in the relationship, Linda Kolman received messages purporting to be from other women who told her her husband was having an affair. Other anonymous messages to Thomas Kolman informed him that his wife was “sleeping with the dentist.”

At one point, Nunez allegedly showed Linda a phony ID card identifying him as a “medical officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency and produced a document on fake CIA letterhead that he told her was an investigation into the text messages. In the summer of 2011, Nunez allegedly offered $1,000 to a friend to find an accomplice, pose as a CIA agent and meet with the Kolmans.

Over the course of 10 days of testimony from more than 50 witnesses, defense team Gerald Shargel and Evan Lipton sought to undermine every aspect of the prosecution’s case, including whether Kolman’s death was even a homicide. The defense produced its own pathologist, who disputed prosecutors’ contention that Kolman died from “acute Midazolam poisoning.” Instead, Dr. Zhongxue Hua argued that Kolman, who was overweight and suffered from hypertension and sleep apnea, likely died of heart disease.

They noted that pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica had arrived at his theory of death by “acute Midazolam poisoning” only after 11 months and two exhumations of Kolman’s body to seek additional evidence.

In his summation, Lipton suggested that the pathologist acted under pressure from detectives who had already made up their minds that Kolman’s death was a murder and Nunez was the killer. “There is reasonable doubt all over this autopsy report,” Lipton told jurors.

Lipton and Shargel also worked to undermine a key prosecution argument — that Nunez was the only possible source of the Midazolam that set off alarm bells when it turned up in a toxicology report weeks after Kolman’s autopsy. Lipton reminded jurors that Tom and Linda Kolman both worked in the medical field; he as an in-home physical therapist and she as a secretary to the chief of medical services at HealthAlliance Hospital’s Broadway Campus. On cross examination, detectives conceded that they had never searched the Kolman house for drugs, instead relying on Linda Kolman to turn over her husband’s medication. Over prosecutors’ objections, the defense team introduced evidence that Tom Kolman maintained a post office box where he had testosterone, presumably ordered online, delivered. They suggested that cops, who were focused on Nunez as early as February 2012 when they interrogated him and obtained search warrants for his apartment and office, never looked for other possible sources of the drug.

There is one comment

  1. nopolitics

    Lying, unethical attorneys happens to be “a thing.” And upstate, it seems to be more of a “thing” than elsewhere. I am sure the defense cost a lot of prescriptions of Midazolam. This is like “the white O.J.” The “dream team”, only without a pair of gloves. But you do have a few turns of phrases. What’s next? “If the lights don’t spread…you can’t connect my client to the dead”??
    MMO–Motive, Means, Opportunity. All three were proven solidly in this case. Not just theorized–but proven. When you figure, often enough one cannot show motive…or means…and still there is enough to convict… one wonders how much evidence is needed? Sure, there was some doubt…but it wasn’t “reasonable doubt.” Oh well.

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