St. Paul man cleared in mother's death

STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul) Newspaper of the Twin Cities

Date: 07/19/89

Kevin Diaz; Staff Writer

A St. Paul man who was imprisoned for 21 months for his mother's death was acquitted Tuesday on charges of murder, manslaughter and assault that were brought after his release from prison.

A Ramsey County jury found Richard Paul Dziubak not guilty on all three charges, based on new evidence that the woman committed suicide.

Dziubak, 36, had been on trial for the 1987 death of his 65-year-old mother, May Hilda Speiser. He has maintained that she took a drug overdose and then framed him by leaving a note in her underwear that said, "Dick killed me. Pushed me down basement." The note, along with evidence that Speiser had a fractured skull and two broken ribs, caused doctors to rule the death a homicide. While maintaining his innocence, Dziubak pleaded guilty in 1987 to manslaughter charges to avoid a trial on the more serious charges of murder. Evidence of Speiser's possible drug overdose was not found until last year, when a reexamination by Dakota County coroner Dr. John Plunkett, an expert defense witness, concluded that Speiser had taken a lethal dose of antidepressant drugs. "I'm very relieved," Dziubak said after his acquittal on the new charges, which were brought by a grand jury after his court-ordered release from Stillwater prison earlier this year. "After three long years, it's unbelievable." Dziubak described his criminal prosecution as the product of a final cruel act by a mother who had tormented him all his life. "She was a very angry woman, she had it in for us (him and his seven siblings) all her life."

Dziubak found his mother's body in her bed on Feb. 25, 1987, while he was staying with her in her home at 1080 Arundel St. He told police at the time that he had gone to check on her after she had fallen down the basement stairs during an argument. Since then, however, prosecutors had maintained that Dziubak pushed his mother down the steps, causing the head injuries from which the Ramsey County medical examiner's office ruled she died. But that ruling was challenged in Dziubak's trial last week by Plunkett and another forensic pathologist, Dr. Calvin Bandt of the Hennepin County medical examiner's office. Both said it was more likely that Speiser died from the drug overdose. Dr. Garry Peterson, Hennepin County chief medical examiner, testified that given the conflicting evidence of head injuries and a drug overdose, the cause of death could not be determined with medical certainty. Dziubak's attorney, Earl Gray, argued that a woman suffering from fatal head injuries would not have been able to write a note, and that Speiser could predict her death only because she had taken a lethal amount of antidepressants.

Dziubak's oldest brother and a sister, who supported him in his bid to be released from prison, also testified that their mother was a vindictive woman who abused her children and frequently threatened suicide. The sister, Susan Steiner, said yesterday that even their grandmother was shocked at their mother's cruelty. "Her (Speiser's) mother's deathbed words were that she couldn't figure out from the time she was a little girl why she was so vindictive and mean." Dziubak, who did not testify on his own behalf, said after the trial that the note implicating him had stunned him. "Your own mother writing a note like that accusing you of killing her. . . . I'm not a violent person to begin with. "You only have one mother, and no matter what she did to me, I would still be there for her," he said. "(But) all the things she did to me all my life don't compare to what she did to me now."

← Back