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A mad scheme to kill a scientist

COLUMN ONE

Brilliant and wealthy but a paranoid schizophrenic, Walter Sartory was a prime target. He was abducted, drugged and his body set on fire. And a housekeeper and her son have been charged with murder.

January 07, 2010|By Bob Drogin

Before Sartory died, police say, he gave Blanc his computer passwords and a power of attorney granting control over his bank and brokerage accounts. He also appeared to revise his will to leave Blanc the bulk of his fortune, although police believe the document is forged.

Blanc withdrew $210,000 from Sartory's account, the maximum available, before her arrest and was due to get $1.3 million more the day Cox sent his subpoena and Fidelity stopped the transfer.

Cox also checked at the Chevrolet dealership where the SUV had been towed after the accident. A salesman said Blanc had erupted in fury when she learned that someone already had bought a new, top-of-the-line Corvette ZR1 that she wanted. The car cost more than $100,000.

"She became very irritated, very angry," Cox said. "She told them she was about to get $7.5 million in cash."

When police searched her home, he said, they found a book with a title like "How to Choose Your Prey" in her safe.

"In her mind, he was perfect," Cox said. "She's tapped out. He has lots of money. He doesn't know anybody. He lives behind closed doors. He's trying to communicate with ET. Who would miss him?"

At an hourlong court hearing Dec. 2, Wilkinson stared at the floor, never looking at his mother. She fidgeted and glared at reporters through sparkling Dolce & Gabbana designer glasses above her black-and-white prison stripes.

Smith said she will seek the death penalty for Blanc when the case goes to trial, probably in the summer. Joanne Lynch, a public defender who represents Blanc, said the case is in a preliminary stage and the facts are still undetermined. Boone County Circuit Judge Anthony W. Frohlich has scheduled a hearing today to determine whether Wilkinson is mentally competent to stand trial. His lawyers also will seek to have his confession tossed out.

Sartory's last known act was to send two dozen red roses on Valentine's Day to Terri Davis, the woman he visited in Binghamton.

"The flowers were so beautiful," she said. "I tried calling him and calling him and calling him. And then I heard the news. And I cried, and I cried, and I cried."

bob.drogin@latimes.com

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