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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Man to stand trial for murder in husband's alleged force-feeding death

Thomas Zupner is accused of forcing food into his husband's mouth during "a violent struggle" in which he attempted to tie up the alleged victim with neckties.
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SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A man accused of fatally force-feeding his husband at their Rancho San Diego home was ordered Monday to stand trial on a second- degree murder charge.

Thomas Zupner, 65, is charged in the Sept. 17, 2019, death of his 62- year-old husband of 11 years, Blake Synowski.

Sheriff's deputies were called around 10:15 that night to the couple's home in the 10900 block of Explorer Road and found the victim unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputy District Attorney Meredith Pro alleged Zupner forced food into his spouse's mouth during "a violent struggle" in which the defendant held Synowski down and attempted to tie him up using neckties.

Synowski's cause of death was an obstruction of his airway and mechanical asphyxia, according to preliminary hearing testimony.

Pro said Zupner should have been aware that his alleged actions endangered Synowski's life.

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst countered that Synowski suffered from various medical issues and said his client was trying to save his husband's life by feeding him and accidentally caused his death in the process.

Pfingst said Zupner had successfully aided Synowski in the past by force-feeding him.

"He attempted to do the same thing that had proven effective earlier, obviously this time with disastrous consequences," said Pfingst, who called it "a tragic accident that happened while Mr. Zupner was trying to provide sustenance for his husband so that his husband would not die."

Pfingst said the victim had a long history of medical issues, as well as a history of being resistant to treatment.

"We suggest that the only reasonable version of the evidence is that Thomas Zupner acted out of love for his husband," Pfingst said.

Zupner is being held on $250,000 bail and is due back in court Aug. 10 for a Superior Court arraignment.