A gay man who killed his ill husband through force-feeding was sentenced on May 6 to three years in prison, but he will be released Dec. 24, 2022 due to time served.
Thomas Wayne Zupner, now 67, had been free on $250,000 bond, but was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately after El Cajon Superior Court Judge Robert Amador sentenced him in the death of Blake Synowski, 62.
Synowski, an El Cajon dentist, died Sept. 17, 2019, in the couple’s home in the 10900 block of Explorer Road in La Mesa around 10:54 p.m. after paramedics and sheriff’s deputies were unable to revive him.
In a non-jury trial, Amador acquitted Zupner of second-degree murder and he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in March. Amador denied probation and gave him credit for 633 days previously spent in jail.
Zupner’s attorney, Paul Pfingst, told the judge “This is the most unusual involuntary manslaughter (case) this court will ever see.”
“The act causing death was done out of love;” said Pfingst, “the act was intended to help his husband who had health problems.”
Pfingst, who is the former District Attorney, asked for probation and no more time in custody. He said that matzo crackers and water were force-fed to Synowski that night.
“I’ve had 3 years to think about this. I loved him so much,” said Zupner. “I regret so much what happened. I’m so sorry.
“I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was helping him. I’m so sorry,” concluded Zupner.
Amador said he could only find one other fatal force-feeding case in which a hospital employee was convicted of involuntary manslaughter of a patient.
“My brother would be alive today had it not been for (Zupner). He’s not mentally stable and that scares me,” said Sheryl Kelsh, who told the judge she doesn’t understand the “unimaginable verdict” he rendered.
“He did not ask to be force-fed,” said another sister, Rosemary Mattson. “What kind of caregiver force-feeds?”
The victim’s 97-year-old mother, Jennie Lee Synowski, spoke through a computer into the courtroom as she was listening to the hearing from Washington. She told the judge, “The death of my son was anything but natural (…) how he was tortured with crackers forced down his throat.”
All the relatives urged the maximum 4-year term in prison, as did Deputy District Attorney Meredith Pro.
The judge said Synowski was a very good dental practitioner but was also a “functional alcoholic”. Amador was critical of the way Zupner tried to help him.
“It’s not love to deal with a person like this with these types of problems,” said Amador. “If this is love, it’s a brutal form.”
“You killed him for no reason; he was your husband,” said Amador. “This was a position of trust.”
“You tried to tie him up. It makes no sense,” said Amador. “It was horrible. He was vomiting everywhere.”
The judge ordered Zupner to pay $6,009 in restitution.
Zupner remains in the George Bailey Detention Facility until his Dec. 24, 2022 release, according to the sheriff’s department.