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Stella Maudine Nickell (née Stephenson, born August 7, 1943)[citation needed] is a Seattle-area woman who was sentenced to 90 years in prison for product tampering after she poisoned Excedrin capsules with lethal cyanide, which resulted in the death of her husband Bruce and another woman. Her May 1988 conviction and prison sentence was the first under federal product tampering laws instituted after the Tylenol murders.

She laced her husband's medicine with cyanide, which killed him. His death was initially mistakenly ruled to be as a result of emphysema, which meant that the accidental death insurance bonus was not liable to be paid to the widow.

Stella's next step was to plant three other Excedrin bottles (each one contaminated with cyanide) back on store shelves, hoping to make it appear like the work of a serial killer, in hopes that Bruce's death would be reclassified as accidental. It was inevitable that at some point an innocent member of the public would enter the store, unknowingly purchase a bottle of poisoned Excedrin, and ingest the contents. That person was 40-year-old Sue Snow, who died after swallowing poisoned Excedrin planted by Stella Nickell. Snow's husband also consumed the poisoned Excedrin, but survived. After Snow's cause of death was found to be the cyanide-laced pills, and the other two bottles were found in the different stores, police released the batch numbers for the contaminated bottles in an attempt to warn consumers of the danger. Stella Nickell then came forward, stating that she had two bottles of the contaminated medicine, bought from two different stores. Her husband's death was then reclassified as an accident, which meant that she was now eligible to receive his life insurance policy bonus. However, she was soon suspected of being the source of the tampered pills because she possessed two of the five bottles, which she claimed to have bought at two different stores. Her daughter later testified that her mother had talked about killing her father for the insurance money; the daughter later received $250,000 in reward money put up by the drug industry for information that would solve the tampering case.

Stella will be eligible for parole on December 7, 2017, and is serving her term of imprisonment at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin a federal prison in Dublin, California.

Seattle author Gregg Olsen wrote about the Nickell case in his book, Bitter Almonds: The True Story of Mothers, Daughters and the Seattle Cyanide Murders. The case was also featured on episodes of Forensic Files and Snapped.

An episode of the TV show Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Poison, has plot elements strongly resembling the Stella Nickell case.

Later investigations

In 48 Hours: Hard Evidence, two private detectives uncovered several discrepancies in the case. For instance, they could not find any Algae Destroyer sales in records of the fish supply store that Nickell was said to have bought the tablets.

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