Mental state at issue in case

Monday, October 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) -- Attorneys agreed Monday that Anne Katherine Abernathy had mental problems, but her state of mind when she left her $500,000 estate to the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez and the Amirault family of Massachusetts was the big question.

"She had insane delusions that there was a conspiracy to get her, led by the CIA, the FBI and foreign interests," attorney B.C.

Harris told District Judge Glenn Dale Carter in opening statements in a hearing involving the family's challenge of the rambling will Abernathy wrote hours before she committed suicide in July.

"She believed that young children were being trained by Nazis," he said. Harris said she talked about that at her high school reunion with cousins and her friend, University of Oklahoma President David Boren.

Harris said family members first noticed her mental problems between 1996 and 1998.

"There isn't any question that Anne Abernathy had mental problems," said Roger Henson, attorney for the Gonzalez family.

"We will focus on the time the will was written."

"To say that Anne's last wishes were the product of an insane delusion is purely speculative," said Charles Geister, attorney for the Amirault family. "We do not argue that Anne Abernathy had mental problems, but the question is what was Anne's frame of mind when she sat down and wrote this will."

In the four-page will, she praised Elian's Miami relatives because they "treated him with such love." "To give away freedom for power is hollow and tragic. ... May God, such as He is, bless and care for America -- what's left of it," she wrote.

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.

Cousin Rob Abernathy recounted a conversation from Thanksgiving 1998 as he told of changes he noticed in Anne Abernathy's mental state.

"The change I noticed the most was Thanksgiving 1998. She and her mother came over to my mother's house," he said. "She said she had neighbors in Houston who overwatered their yard in order to make her garage sink. She talked about finding tennis balls, yellow tennis balls, in her yard and said her neighbor's had gained access to her safe deposit box in Houston."

He testified that Anne Abernathy said people were after her.

"She said it was her neighbors and the FBI," he said.

Anne Abernathy later moved to Shawnee to care for her elderly mother, who died a few hours before she committed suicide.