On November 29, 2011, Linda Kolman went searching for her husband after learning he had not shown up for work. She drove to the gym in Kingston, New York, where Tom Kolman worked out in the mornings.
Linda found his lifeless body slumped back in the driver’s seat of his sedan in the rear parking lot. The seat was almost fully reclined, and his pants were undone.
Nearly four years later, in October 2015, law enforcement authorities arrested dentist Gilberto Nunez, charging him with the second-degree murder of Tom Kolman in addition to forgery charges for possessing fake Central Intelligence Agency documents. Detectives had collected circumstantial evidence suggesting that Nunez killed Tom, who suffered from sleep apnea, with a fatal dose of the sedative Midazolam.
Investigators also speculated Nunez had an incriminating motive for wanting to kill his then-best friend. Nunez, who was in the process of separating from his wife, had been carrying on a nearly year-long love affair with Linda and wanted Tom Kolman out of the way.
The homicide, which made national TV news, shocked residents of Kingston, a suburban city 90 miles north of New York City, recalls James Nani, who covered the case for the Times Herald-Record newspaper.
“As soon as I stumbled on the case, I thought it was unusual, and the circumstances about it were very odd,” Nani tells A&E True Crime. “You had three people from the suburbs in an alleged love triangle that had these weird details like [Nunez] pretending to be in the CIA. I think that captured people’s attention.”
A Tangled Love Triangle
In 2016, during Nunez’s trial, Nani sat through roughly two weeks of testimony that included Linda taking the stand to recount the intimate details of her 11-month fling with the dentist—and his deceptive efforts to expose their relationship to Tom.
The Kolmans and Nunez had children who attended school and karate classes together, which resulted in the trio striking up a friendship, Linda testified. After she began her affair with Nunez, she recounted, she began receiving text messages in early 2011 from a woman claiming to be having sex with Tom.
Linda asked Nunez to help her verify whether the texts were authentic because he had told her he was in the CIA, she said in court. The dentist provided her with a letter supposedly written by one of his colleagues at the agency, Linda told jurors. The letter allegedly confirmed Tom’s extramarital affair, but also, oddly, advised her to forgive her husband.
In July 2011, Tom learned about the affair between his wife and his best friend, but the love triangle continued, Linda testified. She also said Tom and Nunez became even closer pals, with her husband telling her at one point “[Nunez] was the best friend he ever had.”
During the homicide investigation, detectives learned that Nunez had a burner phone he was using to send text messages to Tom and Linda, accusing both of them of cheating on each other. Nunez admitted to sending the messages, and he owned up to creating the CIA letter, according to CBS News.
Gilberto Nunez’s Trial
During the court proceedings, prosecutor Maryellen Albanese laid out her theory that Nunez had become so obsessed with Linda that he created an elaborate scheme to break up her marriage. The plot included sending the text messages from a phony lover, the fake CIA document and an email in which Nunez allegedly pretended to be his own mother pleading with Linda to leave Tom. When his effort failed, Nunez decided to kill Tom, Albanese said.
Albanese presented physical evidence, such as what appeared to be Nunez’s SUV arriving and leaving the gym parking lot around the same time Tom was there, an internet search for Midazolam on the dentist’s computer and two unopened vials of the drug found in an emergency kit in his office.
Law enforcement officials had also twice exhumed Tom’s body, finding traces of Midazolam in one of his eyes during the second disinterment, Nani says.
“The theory they ultimately came up with is that Nunez slipped Midazolam into [Tom] Kolman’s coffee, leaned his best friend back in his car seat and tilted his head up so he couldn’t breathe,” Nani says. “They clearly had a tough time making their case.”
Albanese did not respond to requests for comment.
The prosecution’s case against his client was weak, says Evan Lipton, one of the criminal defense attorneys who represented Nunez. “Our argument to the jury was not only that Gil didn’t kill Kolman, but that there was no murder,” Lipton tells A&E True Crime. “It was a natural death.”
The defense team called its own expert pathologist who testified that [Tom] Kolman’s heart “was ready to burst and that this was a more likely explanation for the death,” Lipton says. Another defense witness, a pharmacologist, testified that the dosage amount of Midazolam prosecutors claimed Nunez had given Tom wasn’t enough to kill him, Lipton recalls.
“They failed to follow leads that suggested Kolman may have been meeting up with strangers,” Lipton says, referring to recent emails Tom had received from a hookup website called benaughty.com. “We used these facts to undercut their argument that Gil is the only other person who could have been in the parking lot that night.”
The Verdict and Sentencing
On June 17, 2016, the jury acquitted Nunez of murdering Tom Kolman, but convicted him on the felony counts for forgery in connection with the fake CIA documents.
“The medical evidence presented by the defense that [Tom] Kolman had an enlarged heart muddied the waters about the cause of death,” Nani says. “The prosecution was also having a difficult time proving Nunez was there at the scene. There was still reasonable doubt. That was a hurdle prosecutors couldn’t get over.”
As far as the forgery charges, there was no denying the CIA documents were phony, noted Nani, who is now a Bloomberg reporter.
The prosecution had called an information technology technician who maintained the servers at Nunez’s dentistry office. “He testified that Nunez asked him to pose as a CIA agent,” Nani says. “Nunez tried to pay two people $500 to pretend to be CIA agents and have them approach Linda and Tom Kolman in the months leading up to his death.”
The same year he beat the murder rap, Nunez stood for another two trials on unrelated criminal charges of insurance fraud and perjury. He was found guilty in both those proceedings.
In February 2017, Ulster County Court Judge Donald Williams sentenced Nunez to two-and-a-third to seven years in state prison. Williams also denied Nunez’s request to regain his dentistry license upon his release. During the sentencing hearing, the judge admonished Nunez “as an individual who was consumed by an illicit affair, willing to do absolutely anything…to promote his prurient interests,” according to CBS News.
In 2018, Nunez was released after serving 19 months at Altona Correctional Facility in New York with a clean disciplinary record, according to Hudson Valley One. Nunez is on parole until October 2, 2023.
Lipton tells A&E True Crime he remains in contact with Nunez, who had his license to practice dentistry revoked by a New York State review board, but declined to comment on the ex-dentist’s current occupation and what he’s been up to the past five years.
In 2014 Nunez re-married a woman named Yameil, a real estate agent in the Kingston area.