Lethal Vows (TV Movie 1999) - Plot Summary Poster

(1999 TV Movie)


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  • A woman believes that her seemingly all-American ex-husband murdered an earlier wife of his, and she is desperate to prove it.

  • A seemingly upstanding, caring husband and father, Dr. David Farris, is accused of foul play by his ex-wife Ellen regarding the mysterious death of his subsequent wife Lorraine. To prove her suspicions, Ellen becomes determined to reveal David's sinister side by any means possible.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Danielle Farris (Madeline Zima) is shouting at her mother, Ellen, (Marg Helgenberger) because she's forgotten to sign her payment to a summer camp. Ellen's ex-husband, Dr David Farris, (John Ritter) has taken care of everything. Ellen feels terrible all the time; she forgets everything and is always tired.She passes out as if she were drunk. Her family doctor, Dr Addington (Brenda Bazinet) wants to review her medical history, as nothing physically wrong has been found. Ellen has gone to twenty six different doctors throughout the years. When Ellen arrives home one day, she finds David mending a light, which scares her. He is a part-time university teacher, so he hasn't usually got much time for his ex-wife and children or money to help with their maintenance.

    David has married again, to ambitious politician Lorraine Farris (Megan Gallagher). She wins an election and gives him money. David is worried because in her acceptance speech, she says she's going to work non-stop.

    David appears and interrupts Ellen's date with Joe - Ellen's first in three years. He uses the excuse of finding some books for his investigation. David asks Ellen to take care of his son with Lorraine, Graham (Miko Hughes). David asks Ellen about her lover because he notices she's got another date. David tells her to keep her boyfriends far from his daughters. Ellen is a good mother and resents David telling her what to do.

    Ellen calls on Lorraine, who is terribly sick. Ellen sees that Catherine Moray (Kim Huffman) - who was also present at the political celebration - wanted to talk to David. Catherine may donate some money to the university in terms of a grant, which would give an edge to David over his competitors. Catherine is amazed at how civil Ellen is towards David. Ellen is worried about Lorraine's sickness. Graham is also worried about the deteriorating state of Lorraine, so he calls Ellen. Lorraine suffers from the same ulcers in the legs which Ellen used to have. All her other symptoms are exactly the same as Ellen's. However, David tells Ellen not to tell Lorraine anything. David phones Ellen to tell her that he is going to take Graham and Lorraine to a hospital in Mexico which is very quiet; without phones or an internet connection.

    Dr Addington phones Ellen - selenium (a very toxic element) could have been the cause of her symptoms. Ellen tells David, but he dismisses her. Suddenly, Lorraine appears and is perfectly well - apparently because she ate only healthy food at the Mexico clinic. Ellen insists in Lorraine getting a medical check. Soon afterwards, Lorraine gets sick again. David takes her to hospital, but it's too late. The coroner doesn't find any cause of her death. Ellen is still worried about the selenium. David looks inconsolable, and his three children, Sarah (Jessica Bowman), Danielle and Graham stay silent. Ellen is worried at the funeral service because she notices Lorraine has been cremated.

    Ellen talks to doctor Medritch who did the autopsy. He wasn't told to look for selenium. He only found a slight smell of chlorine. David tells Ellen off because of her doubts. Ellen finds an old radio torn to pieces. Sarah helps her to look for information about the pieces of that radio, some of the pieces had been made of selenium. Ellen realises how she was poisoned by her husband. She goes to the police station to tell the police her suspicions about her poisoning and his involvement in the murder of Lorraine.

    Detective Rick Mauser (Lawrence Dane) talks with her. He, in turn, talks to David, who is about to sell the house. David says that Ellen is crazy. Later, he says that Ellen is accusing him falsely because he owes Ellen 30,000 dollar. David threatens to fight for a different custody agreement. Detective Andy Kendricks (Derwin Jordan) investigates the smell of chlorine found at Lorraine's autopsy.

    David begs for Ellen's pardon, startling her in the middle of the night by entering her bedroom without being invited. The appearance of one of her daughters saves her. Assistant D.A. John Hodges (Michael Anthony Rawlins) joins the team.

    The police arrive at David's house deletes several documents from his computer. David is about to marry Catherine. Cyanide was found into the remains of Lorraine. Catherine says she will pay for David's defence. Graham believes his father as well. Danielle is resentful because Graham won't talk to her anymore. Mauser discovers that David was going out with Lorraine before getting divorced from Ellen so he had a motive for getting rid of her.

    Judge L. J. Eadie (Johnnie Chase) judges the case. David's lawyer says it was the remains of a product used in that Mexico clinic.

    David marries Catherine. When Ellen appears, he tells Catherine that Ellen is an unstable person. David was obsessed with Lorraine having a lover, one of her political mentors. Danielle eats some chicken which was at her home's fridge, but apparently nobody from Ellen's household had bought it . There was salmonella in it, which sends Danielle to hospital. Ellen won't let David see Danielle, and he utters some veiled threats. Back at home, Ellen puts all medicines into a safe.

    Noreen finds something strange in a coffee tin which only Ellen drinks from. They have to perform a biopsy on Ellen. Mauser investigates a gold company which David had shares in. David could have taken the cyanide from that company. There is also selenium on the coffee tin.Selenium had been found in Ellen's liver tests.

    David is arrested again. He tries to defend himself to the jury after attempting to poison his lawyer. He tries to convince the jury that someone else poisoned Lorraine because she was looking for clues of city hall corruption. He says that she had stored the information on her computer but it was deleted by the police. Hodges questions him about the computer files where he expresses his jealousy.

    David asks Graham to lie for him, but he refuses. Ellen says at the stand that she has been poisoned for so long that the poison is spreading through her body. David -still in jail- keeps pestering Ellen about a possible parole.

    Ellen gives a barbecue for Sarah, Danielle and Graham. David will be sentenced to life without parole, but Ellen will eventually die of chemically-induced leukemia.

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