Retired Shawnee Mission East teacher Charles Black convicted of pushing wife off a cliff

07/21/2014 3:55 PM

07/21/2014 3:56 PM

A retired Shawnee Mission East teacher was convicted Monday of bashing his wife on the head with a rock and pushing her off a cliff because of a dispute over an affair and a $4 million inheritance.

The couple, Charles and Lisa Black, had retired to the Maine coastal community of Camden. But they argued over an affair Charles Black had with an Arizona woman and how he spent money from the inheritance from her father.

Lisa Black taught at Black Bob Elementary in Olathe and received a stack of elite awards, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship. She was inducted in the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 2002 in a grand ceremony, where the Olathe mayor proclaimed the day as “Lisa Crooks Appreciation Day.”

Prosecutors said the dispute culminated when Charles Black, 71, hit his wife on the head with a rock before pushing her off 800-foot Maiden Cliff in April 2011.

Both of them tumbled down the mountainside, and both were hospitalized for more than a week. Lisa Black said she believed he was pursuing her down the mountain, while Charles Black told investigators that he had no memory of hitting her or pushing her off the cliff.

They divorced in 2013 after nine years of marriage.

Black’s attorney, Walter McKee, attempted to have the charges dismissed over the way prosecutors obtained hundreds of pages of his client’s medical records. He said prosecutors used “secret search warrants” instead of a subpoena. McKee lost the bid for dismissal in April.

Charles Black, who now lives in Salt Lake City, did not testify during the trial. He was found guilty of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault.

He had told police that he’d collected two rocks while they were on the mountaintop with the thinking that they’d toss them over the cliff, symbolizing getting rid of baggage and hoping for a fresh start.

During the trial, his former wife, who now goes by Lisa Zahn, testified that Black had an affair and spent inheritance money without seeking her permission. She said she recalled being hit three times on the head before being pulled to the cliff’s edge. She landed on a ledge and made her way to the bottom to get help.

During the trial, Charles Black was barred from staying in Camden, where his former wife continues to live, because he was deemed to be a threat.


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