LEBANON, Mo. (AP) — A lawyer who specialized in end-of-life matters has been acquitted in the death of her millionaire father, whom prosecutors claimed she had removed from life support by forging power of attorney documents after he survived an attack at his lake house that claimed his girlfriend’s life.
Susan “Liz” Van Note, 48, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the killing of 67-year-old William Van Note and 59-year-old Sharon Dickson. She was acquitted on both counts late Tuesday, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/2kx1VdE ) reports.
Jury foreman Merri Hess said the panel felt Van Note was involved but that they couldn’t convict her on the evidence presented.
“‘Not guilty’ does not mean innocent,” Hess said.
Dickson was stabbed and shot at the couple’s Lake of the Ozarks vacation house and died at the scene. William Van Note was also stabbed and shot, but he survived and was taken to a Columbia hospital. Prosecutors say Susan Van Note forged her father’s signature on power of attorney documents and that as a result, four days later, he was removed from the ventilator that had been keeping him alive.
Van Note was initially charged with forgery, but that charge was dropped before trial.
Authorities allege Susan Van Note had filed for bankruptcy and was angry that her father had named Dickson to inherit the bulk of his estate, which had a net worth in 2009 of nearly $8 million. After his death, his daughter assumed the role of the estate’s executor.
Lead prosecutor Kevin Zoellner described Van Note in his closing argument as a “terrible killer” who instructed the hospital to kill on her behalf. He said a call from Van Note’s cellphone to her home pinged a tower near the crime scene minutes after the lake house attack.
Her attorneys pointed to another man, who has since disappeared, as the killer. No hair, blood, DNA or fibers linked Van Note to the crime scene.
Susan Van Note’s mother, Barbara Van Note, told investigators that her daughter was home in Lee’s Summit when the killings happened 119 miles away in Sunrise Beach. Barbara Van Note went to prison in 2005 for forging her own mother’s name to a power of attorney, and she was ordered to repay $108,000 to a trust fund.
The trial initially was to have been in June 2015, but a mistrial was declared. A second attempt at the proceedings two months later ended when Susan Van Note’s lawyers challenged the admissibility of cellphone evidence.
Dickson’s son, Andrew Dickson, has a wrongful death case pending against Susan Van Note.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com