Missouri

After day of key evidence, including 911 call, prosecution rests in Van Note trial

Susan Van Note (photographed in 2012 outside the Clay County Courthouse) is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of her father, William Van Note, and his girlfriend, Sharon Dickson, at their Lake of the Ozarks vacation home.
Susan Van Note (photographed in 2012 outside the Clay County Courthouse) is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of her father, William Van Note, and his girlfriend, Sharon Dickson, at their Lake of the Ozarks vacation home. The Kansas City Star

The first time Susan Van Note talked to detectives after an attack that left her millionaire father critically wounded and his girlfriend dead, she told them what a great guy her dad was.

The next day, she told two other detectives that she suspected her father had committed the crime.

“At first I thought a crazy neighbor did this, but then I thought my dad did it,” she said in a recorded interview played Friday at her double-murder trial. “I went to bed last night thinking he did it.”

After the interview played, the prosecution rested Friday in Van Note’s double-murder trial at the Laclede County Courthouse. The day included the playing of a chilling 911 call as well as testimony about a cellphone ping that is critical to the prosecution’s case.

In an opening statement Tuesday in the double-murder trial of Lee’s Summit lawyer Susan Elizabeth Van Note, a prosecutor described brutal killings he said were committed for money. Van Note’s defense lawyer countered that the state cannot prove it

Van Note, 48, a Lee’s Summit lawyer, is on trial for two counts of first-degree murder. Her father, William Van Note, and his longtime girlfriend, Sharon Dickson, were attacked late on Oct. 2, 2010, in their lakeside home at the Lake of the Ozarks. Both were shot and stabbed multiple times.

Dickson died at the scene after what evidence has indicated was a violent struggle with her attacker. William Van Note died four days later in a Columbia hospital. Prosecutors say Susan Van Note forged a document to have him removed from life support.

In her first interview two days after the attack, Van Note told investigators that she had a great, loving relationship with her father.

The next day, she described her father as obnoxious, a braggart and an extremely angry and violent man. In an audio interview played Friday for jurors, she called him an “asshole.”

She said that anyone who knew her father would agree that he was prone to violent outbursts.

She described his business dealings, which including lending money at high interest, and called him a shady loan shark.

When asked who she thought did it, if it wasn’t her father, she said it had to be someone not rational — drunk, enraged or high on cocaine. And she said that whoever did it deserved the death penalty.

She said she would ask them: “What did you have to gain?”

In this interview, unlike the first one, Van Note was emotional. Detectives asked her if she did it.

“No,” she answered.

Then she asked the detectives questions.

“What did he say in the ambulance?” she asked them. “He didn’t tell you what happened?”

On cross examination, one of the detectives who conducted the interview said that Van Note had no cuts or bruises on her hands, nothing to indicate that she had been in a fight or struggle.

911 call

Jurors heard a recording of the emergency call that William Van Note made after the attack.

He told the dispatcher that he’d gotten up to check on a barking dog and something hit him in the head. When he got off the floor, he realized something had happened to Dickson.

“I’m bleeding all over the place,” he said. “I think she’s been shot. I don’t think she’s breathing. Good lord.”

The call lasted 17 minutes. The dispatcher gave him instructions for CPR. He could be heard counting chest compressions.

“Come on, baby,” he said. “Come on, Sharon.”

He told the dispatcher, “There’s no sign of life. There’s quite a lot of blood.”

Cellphone ping

An FBI agent testified Friday that a cellphone belonging to Susan Van Note pinged a tower 7 miles from the crime scene at Sunrise Beach shortly after the attack. The cell evidence is critical to the prosecution’s case because it puts Van Note’s phone in the vicinity of the Lake of the Ozarks.

No forensic evidence — blood, fingerprints, DNA, hair, fibers — puts Susan Van Note at the scene. No gun or knife was recovered.

FBI Special Agent John Hauger said the phone called the Lee’s Summit home of Van Note’s mother at 11:12 p.m. that night. It used a cell tower in Sunrise Beach, 103 miles from Lee’s Summit.

“The phone is in that area when it made that call,” Hauger said. “The phone is approximately 7 miles from the crime scene.”

Information from AT&T Wireless showed the call was made five minutes after her father called 911. It lasted 13 seconds. Van Note told detectives she was home in Lee’s Summit when the crime occurred.

Van Note, an attorney, specialized in end-of-life matters.

Hospital officials testified that Van Note appeared anxious to have her father removed from life support, but defense attorneys have established that ultimately the document was not used. As next of kin, Susan Van Note was allowed to make the decision on her father’s health care.

Purported will

A computer expert with an FBI task force testified Friday that a search of hard drives of computers seized from Van Note turned up the health directive and a will purportedly for her father.

Scott Slifer, a Lawrence, Kan., police detective and part of an FBI computer crime task force, said both documents were produced from ones Van Note had made for a female client.

According to Slifer, an analysis showed that both documents were dragged from Van Note’s laptop to her desktop on Sept. 28, 2010, six days before the attack.

The alleged will of William Van Note provided that 25 percent of his assets go to Dickson if she survived him. If she did not survive him, the 25 percent and the remaining assets would all go to his daughter.

Testimony resumes Saturday. The trial is expected to go into next week.

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