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MOTHER DENIES GIVING ARSENIC TO CHILDREN IN PIGNATARO CASE

Deborah Pignataro took the stand Tuesday in her child-neglect trial to categorically deny giving poison to her two children.

In her daylong testimony in the nonjury trial, she decribed how her health had worsened but her daughter did not become sick until consuming a bowl of soup last July. The soup, she said, had been prepared by her husband, Anthony, who also is on trial.

The Pignataros' two children were hospitalized for four days in August 1999 with elevated levels of arsenic.

Family Court Judge Marjorie C. Mix will hear a fifth day of testimony Thursday.

The judge has refused to dismiss the child-neglect case, ruling that Erie County child welfare officials had reasons to believe that one or both of the parents had poisoned the children.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have charged Anthony Pignataro with attempted murder, contending the former physician had tried to poison his wife with arsenic.

He also has been jailed for violating parole in an earlier case in which he pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the death of a patient in 1997.

Mrs. Pignataro, 43, told the judge Tuesday that she had kicked her husband of 15 years out of their West Seneca home in January 1999, a month after he was released from prison in the patient's death.

But by the following June, when she became ill, he again was living with the family and helped to prepare meals.

Pignataro maintains he had nothing to do with his wife's poisoning.

The children have recovered fully and, since the beginning of this month, have been living with their mother after staying with a local relative for a year.

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