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Whodunit wife denies murder

THE WEEKEND was meant as a Valentine's Day getaway for couples with a taste for murder mysteries. The highlight was an Agatha Christie- style whodunit performed by amateur actors, with the audience participating to identify the killer. The play was a hit. However, within hours a guest was found dead.

This is the strange scenario at the heart of a murder trial in Easton, Maryland, on the shore of Chesapeake Bay. Prosecutors contend that on 14 February last year, Kimberly Hricko, 32, returned to her room after the play with her husband, Stephen, and murdered him.

Mrs Hricko is accused of administering poison to her husband. Hours before, the couple had watched how, in the play, a groom died after sipping poison-laced champagne.

Robert Dean, the prosecutor, told the jury that the couple had been having long-running marital difficulties and that Mrs Hricko stood to collect $200,000 (pounds 126,000) in life assurance on her husband's death.

According to the defence, Mrs Hricko, who denies murder, left the hotel alone after the play to visit friends. When she returned she found her room filled with smoke. Stephen Hricko, 35, was dead.

Documents filed by the police say that Mrs Hricko had told friends that she wanted to kill her husband. She is alleged to have described how she would administer poison to paralyse him and then set fire to the room.