July 14, 2014

Retired Shawnee Mission East teacher on trial for attempted murder in wife’s cliff push

An attempted murder trial for retired Shawnee Mission East teacher Charles Black, known in the Kansas City area as Reed Black, starts Monday in Maine. Prosecutors say he hit his wife, Lisa Crooks Black, on the head with a rock before pushing her off the 800-foot Maiden Cliff in April 2011 in in Camden Hills State Park.

CAMDEN, Maine – Charles and Lisa Black moved to Maine after careers as teachers in Kansas, pursuing an idyllic retirement that prosecutors say was destroyed by arguments over money and infidelity before both plummeted off a cliff.

Prosecutors say 71-year-old Charles Black, known in the Kansas City area as Reed Black, hit his wife on the head with a rock before pushing her off the 800-foot Maiden Cliff in April 2011 in in Camden Hills State Park. Lisa Black, 55, says she believed Charles was chasing her when he, too, tumbled down the mountain, according to a police report.

The Blacks are former Johnson County, Kansas, teachers who had moved to Maine about a year earlier. Charles Reed Black taught social studies and later instructed children with special needs at Shawnee Mission East. Lisa Crooks Black taught at Black Bob Elementary 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.”

Charles Reed Black’s trial is set to begin Monday in Rockland with jury selection.

Law enforcement officials have said Lisa Black received a $4 million inheritance from her father, and she and Charles Black had a dispute over how he spent some of the money without her permission. Lisa has also accused Charles Black of having an online affair.

Charles Black now lives in Salt Lake City and faces numerous charges, including attempted murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The prosecution has also asked the court for permission to introduce evidence that he had earlier tried to poison Lisa Black.

Black’s attorney, Walter McKee, attempted to have the charges dismissed over the way prosecutors obtained hundreds of pages of Black’s medical records. He has said prosecutors used “secret search warrants” to get Black’s the records and should have subpoenaed them instead. McKee lost the bid for dismissal in April.

McKee said he expects the trial to take two weeks. He said the recent accusation of poisoning is “bizarre” and the state can expect “a vigorous challenge.”

Calls to Lisa Black and Charles Black were not returned. Police said the couple was hiking on Mount Megunticook when the fall occurred.

Lisa Black fell a short distance down the mountain, stood up and ran to seek help. Charles Black also fell down the mountain – a police report said Lisa believed he was chasing her – and both suffered serious injuries.

He told police he fainted, fell forward and hit the back of Lisa Black’s head with his own head, but he had no memory of pushing her off the cliff. They divorced in 2013 after nine years of marriage.

A judge banned Charles Black from staying in Camden during the trial. Prosecutors have said Lisa Black is concerned about her safety if Charles is allowed in town.

In addition to attempted murder, Black is charged with two counts of elevated aggravated assault and three counts of aggravated assault.

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