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Westlake Village Man Takes Stand to Deny Attacking Ex-Wife in '99

Woman filed a civil suit after prosecutors found insufficient evidence to charge her former husband in beating.

November 20, 2002|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Cool and affable, a Westlake Village businessman Tuesday denied beating his ex-wife over the head with a heavy metal flashlight three years ago and told jurors he was home asleep when the near-fatal assault occurred.

Lee Mannheimer, 59, acknowledged that he has no alibi for the late-night hours of Sept. 11, 1999, when the attack occurred.

But he calmly denied entering the Camarillo-area home of his former spouse, Linda Morrisset, and cracking her skull during a violent rage, as she alleges.

Morrisset, a 51-year-old accountant who is now partly paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, told jurors last week that Mannheimer "bashed my head in."

But, asked by his attorney, Greg Ramirez, whether he assaulted Morrisset, Mannheimer responded Tuesday: "No, never."

Mannheimer was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after Morrisset awoke from a 16-day coma and identified him as her attacker. He was released from jail after prosecutors found too little evidence to file charges.

Mannheimer temporarily lost custody of his 9-year-old son amid the allegations, however, and sued his ex-wife for slander. She, in turn, sued him for assault and battery.

Lawyers have characterized the civil trial in Ventura County Superior Court as the extension of a very uncivil divorce.

But Mannheimer testified Tuesday that despite some rough patches after their breakup in 1993, he and his ex-wife got along fine and shared custody of their son, Maxx.

In fact, on the day Morrisset was attacked, Mannheimer said he spent a pleasant day with his son, taking Cub Scout photos and shopping at Universal CityWalk. He tucked the boy into bed about 9:30 p.m. and went to sleep himself an hour later, he testified.

Mannheimer said he never saw his ex-wife that day, although she contended she went to his home in a mix-up over where Maxx would spend the night.

Mannheimer said he was not aware of his former wife's near-fatal injuries until investigators came to his office two days later.

Mannheimer also flatly denied that he asked a business associate, Anthony Gigliotti, to follow his estranged wife in mid-1993, or paid him $10,000 to make her "disappear."

"It never happened," Mannheimer said.

The alleged murder-for-hire plot was investigated by federal authorities and led to Gigliotti's arrest in August 1993.

Neither Gigliotti nor Mannheimer was ever charged with a crime.

Questioned about the 1993 events, Mannheimer described Gigliotti as a friend and business associate who had expressed concern over Mannheimer's pending divorce and the potential of losing custody of his son.

Without his knowledge, Mannheimer said, Gigliotti had tried to investigate Morrisset. He said he told Gigliotti not to get involved.

Gigliotti, a resident of Danville, Calif., also took the stand Tuesday and denied involvement in a murder-for-hire scheme.

Asked if Mannheimer, his former boss, offered to pay him $10,000 to follow Morrisset, Gigliotti scoffed and responded: "He's the cheapest person in the world. No, he would never do that."

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