Legal Secretary Convicted of Killing Boss To Be Released from Prison

I’ve shared some extreme tales of theft from law firms by legal support staffers, but so far, I can’t recall anyone poisoning her boss to access the business accounts. But I wasn’t blogging in 2003 when this story made national news headlines.

The Winona Daily News reports that Sarah Dutra, who was 21 years old when she was employed as a legal secretary by well known California attorney Larry McNabney, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after helping his wife poison him with horse tranquilizers in order to steal money from his practice.

This tale of law practice theft and murder is definitely a jaw-dropper. The legal secretary and the lawyer’s wife poisoned McNabney at a horse show, drove the dying lawyer through Yosemite National Park looking unsuccessfully for a place to bury him, and then stuffed the body in a refrigerator in his own garage.


The pair then spent months shopping, buying cars and vacationing with his money. Sometime during that period they must have found time to move the body to a vineyard where it was found in early 2002.  The lawyer’s wife, who turned out to have an extensive criminal history, hanged herself in jail but left a written confession implicating the legal secretary in the murder.

According to the Daily News, Dutra is scheduled to be released later this month after serving most of an 11-year maximum sentence. The murderous tale was the subject of  two true crime books, including Marked for Death (Avon, 2005), and inspired a Lifetime movie, Lies My Mother Told Me. Dutra, also a college art major at the time of the crime, has spent some of her time behind bars creating art. Several of her paintings were displayed during an unsuccessful 2007 court hearing to reduce her sentence, and raised the question whether a convicted murderer should be allowed to profit behind bars.

You’ve got to wonder what kind of future Dutra, now in her early 30s, faces after her release. Formerly an honors student with a clean record and a bright future, she’ll have to take the consequences of the horrific decisions she made while working as a legal secretary for a well-respected attorney with her to her own grave.

Source:  Winona Daily News

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