Black asks 'Why would I do this?' in recording
Rockland — Charles Reed Black, accused of attempting to murder his former wife, asked in a recorded interview with police why would he do such a thing to his wife, her family, and his son.
Black, 71, formerly of Camden and now living in Salt Lake City, Utah, is accused of hitting his then-wife, Lisa Zahn, in the head several times with a rock, and dragging her body over the edge of Maiden Cliff in Camden in April 2011. The couple, both retired teachers, divorced in 2012 after seven years of marriage.
Black has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault.
Black and Zahn, 55, of Camden were both hospitalized at Eastern Maine Medical Center after falling over the edge of the cliff. Black said he does not know how he and his former wife fell off the mountain, but Zahn asserts he tried to kill her, and fell himself while attempting to finish her off after she landed ten feet below the cliff face.
The state contends Black wanted his former wife dead because of an affair he was having and because she had inherited a large sum of money totaling nearly $4 million.
The defense argues Black knew he would not inherit money if his wife died, and that the injuries Black suffered do not corroborate the claim he was the perpetrator.
When Black was interviewed by Maine State Police Detectives while in the hospital, he was questioned about what he remembered before he and Zahn fell off the mountain. In the recording, Black says he remembered the picnic lunch the couple had atop the mountain, and a hug the two shared. He told police said he was thinking how he and Zahn had something special in the marriage, and although they were having problems, they could work things out. He said he did not remember attempting to harm his wife.
At the time, Black was having an affair with a former high school girlfriend, and the two had discussed a life together, the ex-mistress, Candice Carter of Arizona, testified in court July 17. The couple had exchanged text messages the day of the hike.
When questioned, Black told police he loved his wife more than Carter.
Police asked whether the affair was motivation for wanting to kill his wife, and if he fell off the mountain himself attempting to finish Zahn off when she landed on an outcropping from the ledge. Black replied, "If I did this, then who knows what's possible?"
Black asked multiple times why would he do this to his wife, his step-daughters and his own son throughout the interview, and said he did not remember trying to harm her.
When he was asked if he thought Zahn would be lying about what she said happened on the the mountain, Black said no, that, "Lisa is not a liar."
Former Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Maine, Margaret Greenwald, who recently retired, testified about the injuries Zahn sustained. Greenwald was asked to determine the possible cause of Zahn's injuries by state police.
She testified the wounds to Zahn's head, three gashes ranging in size from a half-inch inch to nearly three inches in length, two exposing her skull, were consistent with being hit by the same object multiple times, due to the clustering of the wounds. Zahn's other injuries were more spread out, and likely due to her scramble 700-feet down the mountain to reach aid, said Greenwald.
Zahn suffered a broken sternum, broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
Defense Attorney Walt McKee asked Greenwald if it was possible Zahn's head injuries could be caused by her fall off the cliff, onto the outcropping, and then down a ravine. Greenwald said it was unusual for the injuries to be located where they were in such an instance, but agreed it was possible the wounds could be sustained by such a fall.
Michele Fleury, a forensic chemist at the Maine State Crime lab, testified there were stains on Black's jacket that caught her eye when she was examining clothes Black and Zahn were wearing on the day in question. The two stains, on the left shoulder, appeared to be cast off blood, meaning it likely dripped from an object with blood on it, or the blood was thrown off an object and onto the jacket, she said.
When the blood from the jacket was tested by forensic DNA analyst Jennifer Sabean, the two stains on the shoulder were a mixture of matches, to both Black and Zahn. Blood on the rest of the jacket only belonged to Black, Sabean testified.
Samples analyzed from Black's hiking boots and blood found atop the mountain was also a match to Zahn.
Zahn testified earlier in the trial that the force of the blows to her head knocked her to the ground. Black then grabbed her wrist and began to drag her off the mountain, she recalled.
"I thought, I have about eight to ten seconds left on this earth, and I didn't get a chance to say goodbye," she said.
Black's eyes were vacant as he dragged her closer to cliff edge, she said.
The victim said she tried to bite Black in an attempt to free herself, but was forced off the cliff and fell about 10 feet down to a ledge, where she considered playing dead. When she heard rustling above her, she said she knew she had to get down the mountain.
Black at one point tumbled beyond her in what she described as a horrifying sight, his body akin to a pinball, hitting trees and rocks. Zahn said he yelled to her as she was going down the mountain, asking her to help him down the mountain, and pleading that she not leave him. She said she told him she was not certain she could make it down herself, as she had lost a lot of blood and was feeling weak. Zahn also told the court she was scared to go near him.
A jury of 12 women and two men will decide the case. It is unclear whether Black will testify.
Justice Joyce Wheeler is presiding over the case and the trial will continue Monday, July 21.
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.
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