MIDDLEFIELD — A 40-year-old Middlefield woman was arrested late Friday night, after a more than four month investigation into the death of her 73-year-old husband.
Christine Mason was taken into custody at 10:05 p.m. and transported to the Geauga County Sheriff’s department. She is being charged with reckless homicide.
On June 2, Middlefield Police responded to the MIddlefield Village Apartments, 16119 E. High St., for a report of an unresponsive male in a swimming pool. When officers arrived, they discovered 73-year-old James Mason, lifeless in the pool. Chris Mason was also in the pool, holding him, according to reports.
Police had knowledge of prior alleged abuse from Chris toward James, which led to the opening of the investigation into James’ death. Police reviewed a surveillance video from the apartment complex which led to a criminal investigation, according to reports.
“That video revealed some pretty disturbing footage for about an hour and 40 minutes leading up to his death,” said Middlefield Police Chief Joseph Stehlik. “We knew we were going to be investigating an assault or a homicide.”
On June 3, James died and the homicide investigation began in conjunction with the Geauga County Coroner’s Office, Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office and the Geauga County Prosecutor.
The official cause of death was ruled as a heart attack by forced exercise in the swimming pool, Stehlik said. Police did not receive the homicide ruling from the coroner’s office until last month, which was pertinent to make an arrest, he said.
The surveillance video showed Chris blocking James’ exit out of the pool 43 times in the hour and 40 minutes, Stehlik said. James was, however, able to get out of the pool a few times, but ultimately was forced back in.
Stehlik could not give details of the investigation as much of the information is sensitive until the case is tried in court. Stehlik said he could not discuss what police believe Chris’s motives were, but did say, James was not a wealthy man, having only a small pension.
“He was not wealthy, which is kind of the irony of it all,” he said.
In an interesting twist, Chris was born in Kentucky as a male with the name John Lesley Ballandingham, Stehlik said. In 1993, she underwent gender reassignment surgery in Montreal, Canada. In Kentucky, it is legal to alter a birth certificate, so she changed her name to Chris Newton John. When she changed her name, she was then able to marry in Ohio, Stehlik said.
“It is quite the twisted story,” he said.
Chris is scheduled to appear in Geauga County Court Tuesday morning.