Judge: doctor is still a flight risk

CLEVELAND – A doctor returned to the U.S. to face charges he killed his wife with cyanide was ordered held on $75 million bond because he’s an obvious flight risk, a judge said yesterday.

Yazeed Essa, 40, who was arrested in 2006 in Cyprus as he attempted to clear customs after arriving from Beirut, Lebanon, gave up a long extradition fight and was returned to Ohio last week.

Appearing from jail via video teleconference, Essa was arraigned in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, where he pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder. Judge Joan Synenberg said the stiff bond was warranted because of Essa’s years abroad.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

Essa disappeared after his wife, Rosemarie Essa, 38, collapsed in her car and died on Feb. 24, 2005, about five miles from the couple’s home in Gates Mills, outside Cleveland. A coroner determined that she had been given a cyanide pill.

Prosecutors say Essa, a former physician at Akron General Hospital, gave his wife a tablet that she thought was calcium.

Yazeed Essa sat calmly during his brief arraignment, allowing his lawyer to enter the plea for him.

Defense attorney Steven Bradley said his client had no intention of posting bond and intended to remain in jail until his trial. It was Essa’s decision to return to the U.S. because he believes that he can now get a fair trial, Bradley said.

The lawyer said Essa had fled because he believed initially that, as an Arab-American, he would not be able to get a fair trial in the U.S.

Family members of Rosemarie Essa released a statement indicating they were satisfied that Yazeed Essa would be tried.

“It has been four very difficult years since losing Rosie and we look forward to having justice finally served for her death,” the statement said.