The Truth About The Jeopardy! Winner Who Murdered His Wife

Game show contestants are oftentimes seen as harmless, good-natured individuals looking to put their skills to good use as they hope to win big prizes. Sometimes, these people, at some point in the future, become famous for the right reasons. Remember when Aaron Paul was probably one of the loudest, most animated contestants in "The Price is Right" history? That came years before he gained fame as the world's second most famous fictional meth dealer, right behind that Heisenberg guy. Then again, you've also got people like Rodney Alcala, who was all sorts of creepy on "The Dating Game" while living a double life as a serial killer.

You may not realize it, but even "Jeopardy!" is not immune from having contestants who turned out to be rather unpleasant human beings all along. This is a game show where it certainly helps to be an egghead, and if you're smart and lucky enough, you could end up winning thousands, or even millions of dollars as a multiple-time champion. But smart doesn't always mean law-abiding, and that was the case with Paul Curry, who appeared on "Jeopardy!" in the late 1980s and actually ended up winning a few times. In 2014, he was found guilty of murdering his wife, closing a case that had gone cold a good two decades prior. Here's what we know about Curry and what apparently led him to kill his wife.

Paul Curry was a two-time Jeopardy! winner in 1989

As noted on his J! Archive page, Paul Curry was introduced on "Jeopardy!" as a training consultant from Laguna Hills, California. Over the course of three episodes in March 1989, he won two times, accumulating a total of $24,101 before he lost on the March 21 episode. While the site does not have any detailed information for the episodes where Curry won, the episode where he lost had him in a tight battle with the two challengers at the end of the Double Jeopardy! round. He had $5,000 heading into Final Jeopardy!, just $400 short of the leader and $300 shy of the second-placer's earnings. 

For the final question, which was under the "U.S. Presidents' category, host Alex Trebek provided the following clue — "Though his second administration was scandal-ridden, he was almost nominated for a third term four years later." Curry wrote down "Who was [Andrew] Jackson?" — an understandable guess considering how unpopular and controversial Jackson often was (via History), but that wasn't the answer (or should we say, question) Trebek was looking for. 

With the two other contestants correctly guessing Ulysses S. Grant, Curry was left with zero dollars for the day, having gone for broke by wagering all his pre-Final Jeopardy! earnings. He did, however, go home with his prize money for his two prior wins, as well as a few consolation prizes, including a color TV, for finishing third place on his third day on the show.

He and his new wife Linda were seen as the perfect couple

According to Oxygen, Paul Curry met Linda Kinkade in March 1989 — the same month he was on "Jeopardy!" — soon after he was hired by the nuclear plant where she was working. Despite how Kinkade, then 45, and Curry, then 32, had quite the age gap, the two of them hit it off quickly. Kinkade's friends also liked the young engineer, noting that Curry was an "intelligent" and "charming" person who "gushed" over her. In short, they were seemingly the perfect couple, and as documented on Oxygen's "Charmed to Death," Curry and Kinkade tied the knot in 1992 in Las Vegas, marking the next chapter in what had appeared to be a storybook relationship so far.

As the couple settled into married life, things seemed to be fine as they still looked to be inseparable, with Oxygen describing Curry as someone who loved to cook and prepare meals for his new wife — this would sadly figure in Kinkade's eventual fate. The happiness was soon replaced by a genuine concern about Curry's character and motivations. Kinkade's best friend, Merry Seabold, revealed on "Charmed to Death" that one day, she got a phone call from Kinkade, who was concerned that "Paul [was] getting real, real intent on getting everything put into his name."

Curry aroused suspicion after his wife was hospitalized with a mystery illness

There's no denying that Paul Curry's determination to get "everything" in his name, as well as his plan to take out a $1 million life insurance policy on his wife Linda Kinkade, was greatly concerning for her friends and loved ones. But that wasn't all — allegedly, he wasn't forthcoming to Kinkade about his two past marriages and how he had previously fathered a child with one of his ex-wives. In an effort to make things right by his spouse, he booked a three-day cruise, but that was also where Kinkade contracted a mystery illness. Originally, she and Curry were among several passengers on the cruise who fell ill due to a Hantavirus, but Kinkade's condition grew progressively worse in the weeks that followed before her symptoms strangely disappeared. 

Kinkade got sick once again on New Year's Eve 1993 and was back in the hospital. At that point, people were seriously starting to question whether Curry was trying to slowly kill his wife. While she and her husband were staying at Curry's home, Seabold discovered various documents pertaining to her best friend's personal finances and life insurance. Not long after that, a nurse found that Kinkade's IV bag had been punctured with a needle, prompting hospital security to notify law enforcement.

Speaking to detectives from her hospital bed, Kinkade acknowledged the possibility that her husband was out to get her. "Well, the only person I can think of that would have a motive to do it would be Paul," she said, as quoted by Oxygen. "I just don't want to believe and think that he would do that. He seems like a very good husband."

Curry allegedly tried to poison his second wife as well

Linda Kinkade died on June 10, 1994, at the age of 49, having never really recovered from her illness. Paul Curry then cashed in on his late wife's insurance policies and retirement plan, and it looked like he had literally gotten away with murder while becoming some $419,000 richer (via CBS News). According to Oxygen, Kinkade's family and friends couldn't quite agree on whether or not there was a chance Curry had poisoned her, and with no evidence of poisoning, the case went cold for eight years.

In 2002, Sgt. Yvonne Shull of the Orange County Sheriff's Department was able to review tapes of Kinkade suggesting that Curry might have had a motive to kill her. She then discovered that the former "Jeopardy!" champion was an even shadier character than once thought. Aside from how he had worked at several nuclear plants despite never earning a college degree, what was more telling was that Curry allegedly tried to poison his second wife, who also suffered from confounding symptoms for over a year. "I had no energy, very dizzy, I was... it was very hard for me to get out of bed," the ex-wife revealed to Shull. "I saw many doctors. Took many pills. And no one really diagnosed it correctly."

After the second wife refused to take out a life insurance policy, Curry purportedly left her and moved on to Kinkade. Thanks to more advanced toxicology analysis at the time the case was reopened, it was revealed that Kinkade, who didn't smoke, died from severe nicotine poisoning. Investigators believe Curry repeatedly poisoned her by adding tobacco to the salads he'd prepare for her and, shortly before her death, injected her with one final (and fatal) dose of nicotine.

The former Jeopardy! champ is serving a life sentence for murder and insurance fraud

As reported by CBS News, Paul Curry moved to Kansas after collecting on Linda Kinkade's insurance policies and 401(k). It looked like he was keeping a relatively low profile as a building code inspector in Salina — a far cry from his past work training nuclear plant engineers in California. The outlet noted that he had also married again after relocating to the Sunflower State. He was arrested in November 2010 and reportedly showed no emotion when the Orange County Sheriff's Department's Sgt. Shull played back the old recordings of Kinkade telling the cops about her suspicions.

On September 30, 2014, Curry, now 58 years old, was found guilty on charges of first-degree murder with special circumstances and insurance fraud, per Oxygen. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on November 14 of that year. As quoted by ABC News, prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh credited the "very smart jury" for quickly helping bring the "Jeopardy!" alumnus to justice, noting that they wisely recognized how "for 16 years he was enjoying the fact that, in his mind, he thought he got away with murder."