Ex-teacher convicted of pushing wife off cliff

Cliff Fall

ROCKLAND, Maine (AP) — A former Maine man was found guilty Monday of six felonies for bashing his wife on the head with a rock and pushing her off a cliff because of a dispute over an affair and a $4 million inheritance.

The couple, Charles Black and Lisa Zahn, retired teachers from Kansas, had moved to the coastal Maine community of Camden. But they argued over an affair Black had with an Arizona woman and how he spent money from the inheritance, which was from her father.

Prosecutors said the dispute culminated when Black, 71, hit his wife on the head with a rock before pushing her off 800-foot Maiden Cliff in April 2011.

Both Zahn and Black tumbled down the mountainside, and both were hospitalized for more than a week. Zahn said she believed he was pursuing her down the mountain, while Black told investigators that he had no memory of hitting her or pushing her off the cliff. He told police that he’d collected two rocks while they were on the mountaintop with the thinking that they’d toss them over the cliff, symbolizing getting rid of baggage and hoping for a fresh start.

They divorced in 2013 after nine years of marriage.

Zahn, 55, embraced prosecutor Geoff Rushlau on Monday after the jury convicted Black of one count of attempted murder, two counts of elevated aggravated assault and three counts of aggravated assault.

Rushlau said Black’s punishment “could represent a life sentence” for the defendant, who now lives in Salt Lake City.

“It’s an absolute miracle that she’s alive,” Rushlau said, adding that Black “was trying to kill his wife — he failed in that effort.”

Black showed little emotion as the jury read its verdict. His attorney, Walter McKee, said he believed he had established a reasonable doubt, in part because there was none of Zahn’s blood on Black’s pants after the fall. But Rushlau argued in his closing statement that Zahn’s blood was found on Black’s shoes and jacket.

Black did not testify during the trial.

During the trial, Zahn testified that Black had an affair and spent inheritance money without seeking her permission. She said she recalled being hit three times on the head before being pulled to the cliff’s edge. She landed on a ledge and made her way to the bottom to get help.

During the trial, Black was barred from staying in Camden, where his former wife continues to live, because he was deemed to be a threat. He was held without bail pending sentencing, which has not been set.

 

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