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Ventura County

No DNA Match in Mannheimer Case

Evidence tying man to beating of his ex-wife is lacking, a jury is told, but inquiry is still open.

November 21, 2002|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Within a day of the savage beating of his ex-wife, Westlake Village businessman Lee Mannheimer was identified by law enforcement as the likely suspect who entered her home and cracked open her skull with a metal flashlight.

But after three years, a detective testified Wednesday, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department still has no physical evidence linking him to the near-fatal attack.

In fact, homicide detective Tim Lorenzen told a civil jury that DNA tests on tissue and blood samples collected at the crime scene do not match Mannheimer.

Nevertheless, Lorenzen testified that investigators do not believe accountant Linda Morrisset was the victim of a random robbery inside her former Camarillo-area home.

The investigation remains open, Lorenzen said, and investigators have not ruled out Mannheimer as a suspect.

Mannheimer, 59, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after Morrisset, now 51, awoke from a coma and identified him as the intruder who bludgeoned her with a flashlight on Sept. 11, 1999.

Mannheimer was released after prosecutors determined they did not have enough evidence to file charges. She later sued him for assault and battery. The trial got underway last week in Ventura County Superior Court.

Morrisset testified that Mannheimer was a bully during their nine-year marriage and treated their son, Maxx, 12, as a possession.

After their divorce, she said, disputes over a joint child custody agreement continued and boiled over on Sept. 11.

Morrisset contends that her former spouse entered the house where she was staying alone that night and beat her. She is now partly paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.

Mannheimer denies beating Morrisset. He testified this week that he was home asleep when the attack occurred.

On Wednesday, his former au pair testified that Mannheimer went to bed about 10:30 p.m.

Lorenzen was called to the stand late Wednesday by Morrisset's lawyer to reveal details of the criminal investigation.

Detectives concluded that Morrisset was attacked in the hallway of her home, where a nanny found her the next morning.

At least four indentations, which Lorenzen characterized as "strike marks" from a weapon, were found on the oak-paneled floor near Morrisset's head.

Lorenzen said investigators believe those marks corroborate her statement that she was attacked with a heavy metal flashlight. He said the patterns may suggest she tried to crawl away from her attacker.

A day after the attack, investigators interviewed Mannheimer, who appeared nervous, the detective said, but cooperated with deputies.

In his cross-examination, Greg Ramirez, Mannheimer's attorney, focused on Morrisset's statements to investigators.

After awaking from a 16-day coma, she told detectives that Mannheimer beat her with his fists. Lorenzen said she later told them he used a blue flashlight, then said it was black.

Lorenzen acknowledged that Morrisset also gave conflicting statements about the time of the attack, whether she saw her son and ex-husband that day and what her assailant was wearing.

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