Judge takes estate case under consideration

Wednesday, November 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) -- A Pottawatomie County judge set a Nov. 9 deadline for lawyers in the present findings of fact and conclusions of law in the case of a woman who left her $500,000 estate to the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez and the Amirault family of Massachusetts.

Lawyers representing family members challenging Anne Katherine Abernathy's will and attorneys for the Gonzalezes and the Amiraults rested their cases late Tuesday after two long days of testimony before District Judge Glenn Dale Carter.

Carter has 60 days from Nov. 9 to make a decision in the case, but he said he likely would not need that long.

Abernathy's relatives are challenging the four-page will she wrote in July, hours before the 57-year-old killed herself. They argue she wasn't in her right mind when she wrote the will.

But attorneys for the beneficiaries of the will argued that Abernathy was a responsible woman who not only cared for herself and her mother, Katrine, but kept detailed financial records, followed the news and was able to fill out a will.

Carter denied a request to dismiss the case by the beneficiaries' attorneys on Tuesday.

Forensic psychologist John Call testified on Tuesday that Abernathy wrote the will in a haze of a "mental illness of psychotic proportions."

Call said she spent the final months of her life in a condition where she believed she, the Gonzalezes, the Amiraults and others were being persecuted by Nazis and Satanists who meant to overthrow the government.

Call said his investigation of the case, which included Abernathy's writings and belongings and interviews with those who knew her, led him to believe she suffered from "persecutory delusions" and that her psychosis increased until she killed herself after the death of her 91-year-old mother. The two women died hours apart in their Shawnee home.

"I believe she was focused on victims of the conspiracy and I think she saw the Amiraults and the Gonzalez family as victims of this conspiracy," Call said.

Ray Hand, a psychologist called by attorneys for the Amiraults and the Gonzalezes, said Abernathy "certainly did appear to show some type of disorder" but that it did not define her life.

"The evidence I've seen suggests she was doing pretty well most of the time," Hand said.

Relatives, friends, psychologists, those who dealt with her finances and even a state employee testified about their perceptions of her her mental state during the hearing.

Accountant Steve Garner said Tuesday that Abernathy told him in 1998 that neighbors in Houston were Satanists "who were spying on her, going through her mail and harassing her as she came and went."

Under examination from Amirault attorney Amy Sine, Garner said Abernathy properly organized and prepared her taxes from 1996 to 1998.

Beverly Jordan, an employee with the Adult Protective Services Division of the state Department of Human Services, said Abernathy accused her and another DHS employee in July 1999 of being part of a "government conspiracy."

She said Abernathy burst out of the home, flailing her arms and yelled that they should be more concerned about her neighbors who Abernathy claimed were "Nazis and aliens."

Under cross-examination, Jordan acknowledged that Abernathy was often civil, was aware of her surroundings and seemed to take good care of her mother.

In the will, Abernathy praised Elian's Miami relatives because they "treated him with such love."

She referred to a case involving the Amirault family as a "scam."

Gerald Amirault, his sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave, and his mother, Violet Amirault, were convicted in the 1980s of molesting children at their family-run day care center. Mother and daughter served a decade in prison before they were freed on appeal. Gerald Amirault is trying to get his sentence commuted.