Lessons of a fatal attraction

By GAYLE COULTER State Journal Staff Writer Published:

David Rigsby whispered to his daughter Catherine at her rehearsal dinner in October 1999 that it wasn't too late to back out of her wedding planned for the next day.

But love is blind. Catherine was caught up in the charms of John Paul Stelzl Jr., a 30-year-old blonde bodybuilder who had swept her off her feet.

She hadn't yet encountered her groom's dark side. Ten months later, Catherine was dead at age 26 from an overdose of the drug gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB).

Rigsby said he knows her new husband gave Catherine the lethal dose because he had discovered she had filed for divorce that day.

Just a few hours earlier, Rigsby said Catherine had visited an attorney and started divorce proceedings which included having a restraining order put into effect against her husband, whom she had come to fear.

Stelzl was never criminally charged in Catherine's death but the state of Florida eventually found Stelzl guilty "of intentionally causing his wife's death" in a wrongful death suit filed in civil court there by her parents.

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