By Neal Putnam
The attorney for a gay man accused of killing his dentist husband told a judge Oct. 16 the death was accidental due to an attempt to force feed him because of a medical condition.
Dr. Blake Synowski, 62, died Sept. 17 in his home on Explorer Road in Rancho San Diego after his husband, Thomas Wayne Zupner, 65, called 911. Paramedics were not able to revive him.
Zupner was arrested by sheriff’s deputies and charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
Synowski had a dental office in El Cajon, and his obituary said he helped found a dental clinic in Hillcrest for people with HIV. His memorial service was set for Oct. 26, in Salem, Oregon, where his mother and some of his brothers and sisters live.
Former district attorney Paul Pfingst is Zupner’s attorney and he asked El Cajon Superior Court Judge Robert Amador to either release him on his own recognizance or set bail at $150,000.
Deputy District Attorney Meredith Pro asked to continue the no bail status for Zupner, or very high bail. Amador set bail at $2 million, and Zupner remains in the George Bailey Detention Facility.
Pfingst said Synowski had a medical history of spontaneously losing consciousness and other symptoms, but Synowski refused to see a doctor about it.
Synowski died of suffocation as paramedics tried to remove matzo crackers that were found in his mouth. There was no allegation of any weapon being used.
Pfingst said they were a couple for about 15 years and had been married for 11 years.
“There was no quarrel, ill will or any history of domestic violence,” said Pfingst to the judge. “In no way could it [force feeding] be interpreted to harm him.”
Pfingst said Zupner had no prior record and said he would agree to wear a GPS ankle monitor if granted bail. He said the forced feeding “was a product of love, not a product of anger.”
“This was an accidental death, not an intentional death,” said Pfingst. “There is no history of any animosity between these two.”
The prosecutor said Zupner represents a danger to the community and poses a flight risk. She said there was a physical struggle between the two and Synowski had been physically restrained. Pro said there were bruises on his arm and body and Zupner had slapped him.
Pro said Synowski’s family members were very concerned that Zupner had been named as Synowski’s estate executor in his will. Since he’s in jail, he can’t do that job, said Pro. Synowski’s family may have to go to probate court if they want to remove Zupner as the executor.
Pro said the relationship between the two had deteriorated. She said the food had been forced down his throat. Synowski’s sister attended the bail review, and Pro said his family does not want Zupner released on lower bail.
A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 5.
Synowski’s online obituary said he was survived by his mother, two brothers, two sisters, and eight nephews and nieces. People have been leaving online tributes to him. The obituary says he helped found a free basic veterinary care for pets, particularly for dogs that belong to homeless people.
Zupner’s resume says he worked as a service coordinator for an audio-visual company.
—Neal Putnam is a local freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.