June 19, 2018
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Woman who had affair with man accused of pushing wife off Camden cliff testifies

Abigail Curtis | BDN
Abigail Curtis | BDN
Charles Reed Black, a retired schoolteacher from Kansas, listens to opening arguments Tuesday at Knox County Superior Court in his trial for the attempted murder of his wife, Lisa Black.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The woman who was having an online affair with a man accused of trying to kill his wife by pushing her off Maiden Cliff in Camden said Thursday that the defendant had once commented that his wife’s death would be the easy way out for him.

Candice Carter of Scottsdale, Arizona, testified Thursday afternoon in Knox County Superior Court in the trial of 71-year-old Charles Black.

Black is on trial for attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault in connection with the April 7, 2011, incident on the Camden mountaintop. Thursday marked the third day of testimony.

Carter said that she was Black’s girlfriend in high school 50 years ago in Kansas. She said she reconnected with him through Facebook in 2010.

The Arizona woman said the conversations were simply friendly at first but became more intimate and there were discussions about a future together. She was also married.

The two exchanged telephone numbers and called or texted each other frequently. That stopped for a while when Carter’s husband discovered the phone calls and made her change her number.

Carter and Black then continued to communicate through Facebook and Black mailed her a cellphone for which he paid through his account, she said.

The pair eventually agreed to meet in Arizona and she picked him up at the airport, went to a motel and had sex. She went home that night but met with him the next day at another hotel and again had sex.

Carter testified that in January 2011, Black informed her that his wife was in the hospital after a fall.

“He said if she didn’t make it, it might be the easy way out,” Carter testified.

She then said, however, she thought that Black was joking as they often did.

Carter testified that she had no advance knowledge of any plans Black might have had for his wife. She said she learned from a Bangor Daily News online article that the couple had been injured on Maiden Cliff on April 7, 2011, and then learned further details from later articles.

She said she has not been in contact with Black since the April 7 incident.

Her husband learned of the affair when Scottsdale police interviewed her about the Black case. She said she and her husband remain married.

Earlier on Thursday, jurors heard an audio recording of a police interview in which Black said he recalled little about the April 7 incident.

“Why would I do that?” Black repeatedly asked Maine State Police Detective Dean Jackson when the officer inquired why his wife would claim that he tried to kill her.

The interview was conducted April 8, as Black was in a hospital bed at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Black said he recalled having a picnic with his wife on top of Maiden Cliff. He said they were getting along, and he recalls putting a rock or two into his backpack. He said his wife commented about how they should have another picnic at that location.

“The next thing I know is I was falling,” he said.

He admitted to the detective the couple had marital problems, which included his online affair with a girlfriend from 50 years ago.

Black said, however, he had no reason to hurt his wife.

“It is beneficial to me to have her as long as I live,” he said in the recorded interview.

He said there had never been any violence in their marriage.

The interview lasted for about 20 minutes.

Earlier Thursday, Black’s attorney Walter McKee spent roughly an hour cross-examining Lisa Zahn, Black’s former wife, who had testified Tuesday. McKee questioned her at length about her discovery of the online affair, as well as what happened on the top of Maiden Cliff after the couple hiked there on April 7, 2011.

McKee continually questioned Zahn about whether she was still angry and upset at Black on April 7, but Zahn said she remained hopeful until that day they could make the marriage work. Zahn said the two went out for dinner the night before, and she joked with him that it was a date.

On April 7, the couple hiked to Maiden Cliff to have a picnic — at Black’s suggestion, she said.

The defense attorney pointed out in his questions to Zahn that Black underwent hernia surgery as an outpatient on March 17, three weeks before the incident on the cliff. Through his questioning, the defense attorney also pointed out that Black was 68 years old in April 2011, and she was 52 years old, and that Black was only slightly taller than her.

McKee also questioned Zahn about whether she had told someone she thought doctors were trying to kill her when she was in the hospital within a year before the April 7 incident. Zahn said she did not recall making such a statement, but she later said she vaguely recalls being told she had said that.

Zahn testified Wednesday that, after Black struck her on the head three times and pulled her to the edge of the cliff, she thought her life would end as part of a murder-suicide.

“I remember his vacant eyes,” Zahn said Thursday, recalling the struggle on the cliff.

On Thursday, she acknowledged that after Black dragged her to the edge of the cliff, she either was able to stand up or Black pulled her up. She said she tried to bite his wrist but was unable.

She also said she could not recall telling a police detective after the incident while she was in the hospital that Black had put a rock in his backpack. No rock was found in the backpack recovered by police.

On Wednesday, Zahn testified Black collected two rocks — one large one and one smaller one — and they were next to him before the attack.

Zahn has testified that, when Black allegedly threw her off the edge, she landed on a ledge about 10 feet below the top of the cliff. After she considered playing dead, she decided to climb down the mountain. She subsequently had to drop 35 feet after hanging on to a tree root. She then saw her husband plummet.

She eventually got to the bottom of the mountain on Route 52 and flagged down the third car that passed.

Zahn suffered a broken sternum, broken ribs, injuries to her head, a punctured lung, and serious cuts and bruises to her leg. She was treated initially at Pen Bay Medical Center and then for eight days at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Zahn inherited about $4 million after her father’s death and testified her then-husband knew about the inheritance.

The couple moved to Camden in 2010 after her father died. They used cash from the inheritance to buy a $545,000 home, as well as a Mini Cooper for him and a Volkswagen Beetle for her.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald questioned witnesses. District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau made opening statements and sat at the prosecution table with Fernald, along with two investigators for the district attorney’s office.

Earlier, Justice Joyce Wheeler rejected a request by the district attorney’s office to allow the testimony of a Missouri woman who claimed she overheard a conversation between Charles Black and another woman. In that purported conversation, Black allegedly said that if the right amount of valium had been injected into a bottle of wine then he would not be in the situation he was now.

The jury is also not being told of an earlier alleged assault in which Zahn claims Black fell on her from a ladder earlier in 2011. That case has been separated from this trial.

The 12-member jury and two alternates include 12 women and two men. Jury selection occurred Monday.

The trial is expected to end Friday or early next week.

Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.

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