Man Convicted in Husband's Force-Feeding Death in Rancho San Diego

Prosecutors alleged Thomas Zupner, 67, forced food into his spouse's mouth during "a violent struggle'' in which Zupner held his spouse down

Generic court photo.
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A man who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for fatally force-feeding his husband at the couple's Rancho San Diego home could be sent to prison for up to four years when he is sentenced next month.

Thomas Zupner, 67, was originally charged with second-degree murder for the September 17, 2019, death of his 62-year-old husband of 11 years, Blake Synowski.

At the conclusion of a bench trial held in El Cajon, San Diego Superior Court Judge Robert Amador ruled Monday that the evidence did not support the second-degree murder count, but was sufficient for an involuntary manslaughter conviction. Zupner subsequently pleaded guilty to the manslaughter count.

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

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

Prosecutors alleged Zupner forced food into his spouse's mouth during "a violent struggle'' in which the defendant held Synowski down. At Zupner's preliminary hearing, defense attorney Paul Pfingst said Synowski suffered from various medical issues and insisted his client was trying to save his husband's life by feeding him but accidentally caused his death in the process. Pfingst said force-feeding had proven effective in the past when Synowski had previously failed to eat.

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