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Ventura County

Boy Denies Seeing Mom Beaten

He testifies in civil court that he spent the day and evening with his father, who is accused of attack.

November 23, 2002|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Peering over the witness stand, a 12-year-old Westlake Village boy testified Friday that he never saw his father brutally beat his mother with a flashlight during a custody dispute three years ago.

Maxx Mannheimer, an articulate curly haired middle-school student, contradicted the story given to police by his mother and backed up the account given in court this week by his father.

The boy was called as a witness during the civil trial between his divorced parents, Linda Morrisset and Lee Mannheimer, who sued each other after she accused him of trying to kill her Sept. 11, 1999.

A housekeeper found Morrisset lying in a pool of blood in the hallway of her Santa Rosa Valley home on the morning of Sept. 12. Four blunt strike marks were found near her head on the wood floor.

After coming out of a two-week coma, Morrisset told detectives her enraged ex-husband had attacked her with a heavy metal flashlight during a dispute over where their son was supposed to spend the night.

Mannheimer, 59, a Westlake Village businessman, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder but released after prosecutors found too little evidence to file criminal charges.

He later sued his ex-wife for slander and other civil claims, which were dropped a few days before this trial.

Morrisset, 51, a former accountant who is now partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, sued Mannheimer for assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress. Her attorney, Allen Ball, spent the last week presenting evidence to support those claims. He rested his case late Friday.

Mannheimer's attorney, Greg Ramirez, opened his case by calling the boy to the stand. He denied witnessing the near-fatal attack on his mother, saying he spent the day with his father.

He said they visited friends in Studio City that evening and then went to Mannheimer's house in Westlake Village. The boy said he did not go to his mother's home that night, as she contends.

He said the next day his mom did not pick him up as planned. A day later, he said, his father told him that she had been attacked and badly hurt.

In subsequent days and weeks, Ventura County Sheriff's Department detectives investigating the incident interviewed her son several times.

Ramirez asked the boy whether his mother also talked to him about it.

"She told me that she picked me up and I was there and I saw it," Maxx responded. "I told her I wasn't there, and I didn't see it."

The boy's testimony, including cross-examination by Ball, is scheduled to resume Dec. 3.

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