Saturday, December 1, 2012
A Kingsburg woman who is accused of fatally shooting her husband had her 15-year-old son pose as his father to drain his retirement account two months before the shooting, a Fresno County sheriff's detective said Wednesday.
Kathryn Ann Ellis, 48, said an intruder shot her husband, Robert W. Ellis, 54, inside their Seventh Avenue Drive home on Sept. 19.
During a preliminary hearing in Fresno County Superior Court, detectives said Ellis also asked about upgrading her husband's life insurance policies.
Fresno County sheriff's detective Sergio Toscano said Ellis was in charge of the family's finances.
When trying to upgrade her husband's life insurance policy, she asked whether an accidental death -- which could include death in a violent crime -- would trigger a clause that would have doubled the policy's value to $240,000. Toscano said the family's financial planner told him he didn't know whether she ever bought more life insurance. He said it would have been costly because Robert Ellis had had a recent heart attack.
The retirement account was closed in a telephone call to American Funds. A recording of the call was played in court Wednesday.
During the brief call, Kathryn Ellis said her husband was present, and then put her high-school-aged son Tom on the phone. He gave the agent his father's name, date of birth -- although he initially provided the wrong year ---- and said he authorized her to handle all the family's financial transactions.
Ellis said she wanted to liquidate the account to help pay her husband's medical expenses.
Toscano said that when he interviewed Tom Ellis at his school earlier this month, the teen initially didn't remember the telephone call and then admitted it was his voice on the recording. "He said he was outside playing and his mother asked him to do this transaction with her," Toscano said.
Although he told Toscano that he didn't have permission from his father to speak on the phone on his behalf, "he said he assumed it was OK and went back outside to play with his friends," the detective said.
When the shooting occurred, Kathryn Ellis told investigators the couple were lying in bed "when there was a commotion coming from the back door or a dog door." Their son was not home at the time.
She said her husband ordered her to lock herself in a bathroom with her dog and got a handgun so he could check the noise.
Kathryn Ellis heard her husband say, "Hey," followed by the sound of several gunshots. She said she found him dead in the living room.
The gun, a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber, is registered to Kathryn Baldwin, her maiden name.
Fresno County sheriff's detective Duane Chatman said Ellis went to an indoor shooting range in Fresno with other family members less than two weeks before her husband was killed, but such an outing was not unusual.
The hearing continues today.