It’s a story made for the silver screen: A young teacher is engaged in a steamy affair with a charismatic older colleague when his wife turns up dead.
The press dubbed it the “Fatal Attraction” killing after the hot film of the moment, featuring Glenn Close as an obsessed, unhinged lover. TV movies and true crime books sprang up in the wake of the murder.
Forty-year-old Betty Jeanne Solomon was pistol whipped and shot nine times. After two trials, her husband’s 28-year-old girlfriend, Carolyn Warmus, was convicted of second-degree murder and locked behind bars for 25 years to life.
Some argue it’s a double tragedy, that the wrong person has been convicted of the crime. Warmus, now 53, suspects she was set up to take the fall. She and her legal supporters say the stories of ex-lover Paul Solomon and prosecution witness Vincent Parco falsely led to her portrayal as a stalker and potential killer.
They hope a glove potentially containing DNA, which officials have yet to test, holds the answers — and grounds for overturning her conviction.
Prosecutors argued there might not be a smoking gun, but circumstantial evidence points to Warmus, the Columbia University-educated daughter of a multimillionaire insurance magnate.
Warmus told CNN’s Kyra Phillips exclusively that she landed in prison for the mistake of dating a married man.
“I always said this is America. I couldn’t be found guilty at trial because I’m innocent,” Warmus said.
Solomon declined to speak to CNN for a special report airing Friday at 10 p.m. ET.
The affair and its aftermath
Carolyn Warmus was a young computer teacher at Greenville Elementary School in tony Westchester County, New York, when she met Paul Solomon, who was 17 years older. Warmus fell for her married colleague and the pair set off on an affair that would last for a year and a half.
Paul assured her that he would leave his wife after their teenage daughter, Kristan, graduated high school, Warmus said.
Authorities believe Warmus grew impatient and wanted Betty Jeanne out of the way.
Prosecutors would contend that Warmus purchased a gun from private detective Vincent Parco, whom she’d retained in another matter, and used it to kill Betty Jeanne before heading to meet Paul for drinks at a hotel.
“She would do anything to get Betty Jeanne out of the picture,” prosecutor James McCarty said at trial.
After Paul returned home and discovered Betty Jeanne’s body, both he and Warmus were interviewed about their whereabouts and activities on that day in January 1989.
Paul said he’d gone bowling and admitted he later spent time with Warmus. Warmus told police about drinks and a sexual encounter with Paul.
Paul was initially the main suspect and Warmus a witness, but a turning point came months after the murder, when Solomon and Warmus had ceased regular contact and Paul had a new girlfriend. He and his lover took a trip to Puerto Rico. Here, Warmus and Solomon’s stories diverge.
Warmus claimed Solomon invited her to join him in Puerto Rico. Solomon insisted Warmus followed him there uninvited. He reported to police that Warmus had stalked him; authorities interpreted it as a sign that Warmus was unhinged.
She went on trial in January 1991.
Among the evidence presented against Warmus were phone records that prosecutors said showed a call was made from Warmus’ apartment to a gun shop on the day of the murder. The prosecution contended that she went to the gun shop, that same day, and bought bullets with stolen identification — bullets she used in the gun allegedly purchased from private eye Parco.
Warmus denies buying that gun and says she never called that gun shop. Warmus’ new lawyer, James Lenihan, told Phillips the evidence presented by the state is flimsy. He claims Parco can’t be trusted and echoed the defense’s theory from Warmus’ first trial — that Parco may have been in collusion with Paul Solomon against Warmus in the murder case.
But Parco, who declined to speak to CNN unless he was compensated, stands by his testimony, and both he and Paul Solomon testified they could not have colluded because they did not know each other. Solomon has always denied any role in the killing of his wife.
But Warmus’ defenders maintain she is no killer. The murderer was more skilled, and ruthless, than Warmus was capable of, Lenihan argues.
“This woman was beaten mercilessly before she was shot. And it’s my understanding that she was shot nine times and nobody missed. That’s not something that’s done by someone who may have fired a gun once in their life,” Lenihan said.
No weapon has been found.
‘I’m the collateral damage’
Both Parco and Solomon received immunity for their testimony for the prosecution.
Eight months after the first trial ended in a hung jury, the second trial began.
After 55 witnesses and four months of testimony, the jury convicted Warmus of second degree murder in 1992.
“I beg of you all now to allow Kristan and me and our families to go forward,” Paul Solomon said after the verdict. “I will not make another statement. We need to now have the time to properly go forward.”
Warmus has always maintained her innocence. Twenty-five years later, her hopes for an appeal lie in a familiar piece of evidence to the American crime-watching public: a bloody glove.
A black glove was found at the murder scene and prosecutors made the case that it belonged to Warmus. But no DNA testing was done or allowed into evidence at trial. Warmus says the glove is not hers and she wants it tested.
Warmus was denied parole in January. She would not apologize for a crime she says she did not commit.
Freedom has become even more urgent, Warmus said. Imprisoned in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women for a quarter century, she has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Warmus said she hopes to have surgery outside the prison system.
“I am a victim. I’m the collateral damage,” Warmus told Phillips. “I’m sitting here in prison for 25 years, and may end up dying shortly in prison and not see the light of day again.”