An inheritance and infidelity caused a retired social studies teacher in Maine to push his wife off an 800-foot cliff, prosecutors argued in court.
Charles Black, 71, sat emotionless in Knox County Superior Court during Tuesday’s opening arguments as authorities laid out their case against him. Black wanted his then-wife, Lisa Black, 55, dead because she’d recently inherited millions of dollars from her father, District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said.
The two had been fighting over spending, authorities say. Additionally, Lisa Black had discovered her husband was having an online affair, Rushlau said.
“What you’ll hear is evidence of two motives: one, money, and the second, another woman,” Rushlau told the court.
The couple went for a picnic and a hike in April 2011, when Lisa Black, 55, says Charles hit her on the head several times, and threw her over the edge of Maiden Cliff, according to court documents.
“She’ll tell you that she was begging for her life, that she was speaking about her two daughters and begging that he not do this,” Rushlau said.
Officials say she survived by landing on a rock ledge a few feet from the top of the mountain. In an unusual twist, Charles Black ended up falling moments later, with Lisa telling police she thought her husband was chasing her down the mountain when he fell.
Lisa Black felt as if her husband had been trying to kill her in the weeks prior to the incident, falling on her from the top of a ladder and hitting her on the head during a different hike, according to court documents.
The prosecution has also asked the court for permission to introduce evidence that he had allegedly earlier tried to poison Lisa Black.
Walt McKee, Charles Black’s defense attorney, says Lisa Black’s accusations don’t add up because there’s no physical evidence. Charles Black had no reason to kill his wife, McKee said.
“What you’ll have to conclude is that it just didn’t happen the way that Lisa Black said it did at all,” McKee said.
The couple, who previously lived in Kansas, divorced in 2012 after nine years of marriage.
Charles Black faces attempted murder charges, along with multiple counts of aggravated assault. If convicted of attempted murder, he could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. He had pleaded not guilty.
ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said the case will hinge on Lisa Black’s testimony.
“It all comes down to how credible her story is and how good a witness she is,” Abrams said. “She’s going to have to be assertive, not ambiguous. If she’s a good witness, he’s in trouble.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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