Former cleaning lady sentenced to life
Brenna R. Kelly - Cincinnati.com
Jan. 4, 2012
BURLINGTON — A former cleaning lady who kidnapped a Hebron
millionaire, duct taped him to a chair in her basement and burned
his body when he died, stood silent Wednesday as a judge sentenced
her to life in prison.
Willa Blanc, 50, who pleaded guilty last month to avoid the chance
of being sentenced to death if convicted, will not be eligible for
Under state law, kidnapping someone who is not released alive
carries the same penalty as capital murder. That allows
prosecutors to seek the death penalty or life in prison even if
they can’t prove the victim was murdered.
Blanc expressed no remorse in court for the death of
73-year-old Walter Sartory. Commonwealth’s attorney Linda Tally
Smith said she has not shown any remorse to date.
“There’s a difference between feeling bad for what happened and
feeling bad for the fact that you got caught,” she said. “She’s a
very proud person, and I think in her own mind she’s found
Sartory’s burned body was found in March 2009 in Indiana, about
two weeks after friends from an Internet bulletin board reported
Another friend from the bulletin board drove eight hours to see
Blanc sent to prison.
“He deserved some representation,” said Elizabeth Kearley, of
Charlotte, N.C., who met Sartory online 16 years ago. Sartory, who
suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had a severe social
phobia, had no immediate family.
“He had a heart of gold. He had no reason to be killed like that,”
Five of Blanc’s family members attended the hearing. Her niece,
Dorthea Smith, of Westwood, stood while Boone Circuit Judge Tony
Frohlich imposed the sentence.
“She’s a very nice person, loving,” said Smith. “Right or wrong,
she took responsibility for her actions and she did it with pride
and I’m proud of her.”
Blanc’s attorneys, public defenders Joanne Lynch and James Gibson,
did not want to comment.
After Sartory’s death, Blanc used forged documents to raid his
bank accounts, getting more than $200,000.
Blanc’s son, Louis Wilkinson, 30, is also charged in the case
and is scheduled to stand trial later this month.
“Unfortunately, Walter Sartory died at the hands of two people
because they were greedy,” Tally Smith said. “It was unadulterated
Sartory, a retired scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory
in Tennessee, worked hard, saved his money and invested it wisely.
He had at least $2 million when he died.
“It’s extremely sad, and it demonstrates that some people’s greed
can cause them to do things that none of us could ever imagine,”
Tally Smith said.
Sartory met Blanc in 2008 when she cleaned his neighbor’s home. In
the weeks before his disappearance, Sartory told friends that he
thought Blanc was trying to scam him and even changed his locks
fearing that she had picked up his key.
Investigators believe that Sartory was taken to the basement of
Blanc’s Union home in mid-February and died about a week later.
That’s when, investigators say, Blanc and Wilkinson, drove the
body to Indiana in a 50-gallon plastic trash can and told friends
they needed to burn a dead dog.
Sartory’s friends in Virginia, who he had met on the bulletin
board, reported him missing on Feb. 26, launching an investigation
that involved more than 25 sheriff’s deputies, but by that time,
he was already dead.
Kearley said the group formed on the Prodigy bulletin board had
become Sartory’s family.
She started the paranoid schizophrenia board because her father
suffered from the mental illness.
“Walt was the first person who connected with me,” she said.
Kearley never met Sartory in person, and only talked to him once
on the phone, but he felt like family.
“His family was on his computer and they had no idea that he was
as connected as he was. We were his family,” she said. “One of the
reasons why he was killed is they thought he was so isolated, that
no one would care or miss him, but he was missed and his is
Since he moved to Hebron about a year before his death, Sartory
had been in therapy and had been interacting with people more.
“He had spent his life avoiding social situations because of the
fact he was distrustful of other human beings,” Smith said. “The
first time that he basically opened himself up to someone who was
a stranger to him, it resulted in his death.”
As part of her plea, Blanc agreed to sit down with Tally Smith and
two detectives to clear up remaining questions in the case. She
had hoped it would help prosecutors decide how to proceed against
But Tally Smith said the hours-long interview was “not productive”
while still meeting the terms of the agreement.
“It’s clear that she’s found a way to try to describe the events
in a way that paints her in a better light,” she said. “But
unfortunately the facts speak for themselves.”
Cleaning lady pleads guilty to exploiting reclusive
December 1, 2011
A former cleaning lady will serve life in prison for kidnapping
a reclusive 73-year-old Hebron millionaire, burning his body and
raiding his bank accounts.
When Willa Blanc was arrested in March 2009 after Walter
Sartory’s body was found in an Indiana field, she favored flashy
designer clothes and drove a red Corvette.
But as she pleaded guilty Thursday to capital kidnapping in
Boone Circuit Court the only remnant of that life were the Versace
eyeglasses she wore with her gray-and-black striped jail uniform.
Blanc, 50, who was facing the death penalty at a trial set to
begin next month, agreed to the plea in exchange for life in
prison without the possibility of parole.
While pleading guilty to nine counts before Judge Tony Frohlich,
Blanc admitted that she kidnapped the retired scientist, abused
his corpse, exploited him, forged documents and stole his money.
Investigators believe that Blanc wormed her way into Sartory’s
life after she met him in 2008 while cleaning his neighbor’s home.
In the weeks before his disappearance in February 2009, Sartory
told friends that he was suspicious of Blanc, who would stop by
his house and stay for hours – something Sartory, who was
terrified of interacting with people he did not like, friends said
after his death.
Fearing the Blanc had picked up his key, Sartory had his locks
After not hearing hear from Sartory for several days, a friend
in Virginia called the Boone County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 26.
Soon more than 25 deputies were working on the case in hopes of
finding Sartory alive. They later learned that Sartory was already
Investigators believe that Sartory, who had no immediate
family, was taken to Blanc’s basement on Feb. 17 and that he died
on for before Feb. 22.
That’s when, investigators say, Blanc and her son Louis
Wilkinson drove Sartory’s body to Indiana in 50-gallon plastic
trash can where they told friends they needed to burn a dead dog.
Authorities believe Blanc began taking Sartory’s money on Feb.
18 when she had her name added to his bank account.
Sartory, a scientist who had retired from the Oak Ridge
National Laboratory in Tennessee, was worth millions of dollars,
according to court records.
Blanc transferred $210,000 from his Fifth Third account and had
access to a Fidelity account with $1.3 million, investigators
Blanc admitted Thursday to forging a power of attorney and a
trust agreement that would give her 60 percent of his assets in
the event of his death.
Around the time of Sartory’s disappearance Blanc told a
Chevrolet dealer that she would soon have $7 million.
At the time, Blanc’s $290,000 home was being foreclosed.
Deputies also learned that she frequented Indiana casinos.
When deputies searched Blanc’s home after her arrest, they
noticed books on the shelf, with subjects “including legal topics,
medical topics and a book the title of which was along the lines
of ’How to Choose Your Prey.’”
In return for Blanc’s guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop
the murder charge against her.
Trial date set in murdered millionaire case
By Brenna R. Kelly - Cincinnati.com
June 22, 2011
BURLINGTON - The mother and son accused of
kidnapping and killing a Hebron millionaire are scheduled to stand
trial in January 2102, nearly three years after the man's death.
On Wednesday, Boone Circuit Judge Tony Frohlich
set the trial for Jan. 26, 2012.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for
Willa Blanc, 48 and her son, Louis Wilkinson, 28, who are accused
of kidnapping Walter Sartory in mid-February 2009, drugging him
and holding him in their basement duct-taped to a chair. Sartory
died about after about a week, said investigators who found his
body March 13 in an Indiana field.
The pair's trial had been scheduled twice
before but was pushed back because prosecutors and defense
attorneys were waiting on laboratory results. A pretrial hearing
in the case was also scheduled for Sept. 7.
The trial is expected to last about five weeks,
said Boone Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith.
Blanc and Wilkinson are charged with murder,
kidnapping, abuse of a corpse and exploitation of an adult. Blanc
is being held on $10 million bond and Wilkinson is being held on
$5 million bond.
Sartory was a retired scientist who suffered
paranoid schizophrenia and a severe social phobia. He had more
than $2 million in investments at the time of his death. In
addition to murder, Blanc and Wilkinson are also charged with
raiding his accounts after his death.
According to a lawsuit hoping to recover the
money filed in federal court, Blanc used several forged documents
to transfer at least $210,000 of Sartory's money into her name.
Sartory's estate filed the suit against Fifth
Third Bank and Fidelity Investments in April alleging that the
financial intuitions should have known the documents, including a
power of attorney, were fake. The suit is in the process of being
settled, according to federal court records.
The suit also blames Fifth Third for giving
Blanc access to Sartory's safe deposit box, from which she removed
13 gold coins worth $950 each.
Schizophrenic genius whose worst fears came
January 10, 2010
As with many paranoid schizophrenics, Walter
Sartory's life was governed by fear. Convinced that the CIA was
spying on him, the brilliant mathematician and scientist moved to
a secluded home in Kentucky, where he filled the garage with
powerful computers and withdrew from the world, devoting his time
to stock market speculation.
Helped by a natural genius for statistics,
Sartory swiftly managed to amass a US$14m ($19m) personal fortune.
But the money didn't make him happy. Instead, voices in his head
began to overshadow his life, telling him that the outside world
was full of mysterious and hostile people who were secretly
plotting to murder him.
In the event, his worst fears were justified.
At some point last February, the researcher, who had spent 30
years working at Oak Ridge in Tennessee, one of the secretly built
US government laboratories where the atomic bomb was developed,
was abducted and gruesomely murdered. Police say hundreds of
thousands of dollars were then emptied from his bank accounts. His
body was chopped into pieces, driven across state lines, and
burned. The ashes were spread in woodland. A charred pair of
steel-rimmed spectacles was all that was recovered.
The forthcoming trial of Sartory's accused
killers is already the subject of morbid public interest. But
comparisons to the troubled genius at the centre of the Hollywood
film A Beautiful Mind have made Sartory's murder an object of
Aged 73, the scientist fitted the tragic victim
role perfectly, down to his aptitude for chess, and his eccentric
wardrobe and mannerisms. Meanwhile the mother-and-son pair accused
of his murder n Willa Blanc and Louis Wilkinson n make textbook
pantomime baddies. Blanc is the alleged author of the macabre
murder plot and is being held in the local jail on $10m bail. She
faces the death penalty if found guilty.
On the basis of a partial confession by her
son, detectives believe Sartory was held captive in a basement for
a week, strapped to a chair with duct tape, drugged, and ordered
to reveal passwords and sign documents that gave them access to
his fortune. The accused have both pleaded not guilty to multiple
counts of murder and kidnapping. On 20 January, Wilkinson will
face a hearing to decide if he is fit to stand trial.
The story has appalled the American public. "We
all struggle to have faith in mankind," Linda Tally Smith, the
prosecuting attorney told the Los Angeles Times this week. "To
think that a man who was already paranoid, who lived his whole
life in fear of others, could fall prey to something so horrific
is heartbreaking." An affidavit filed by police in the case
detailed Mr Sartory's sad life story, painting a portrait of a
widely respected scientist whose classified work involved
designing nuclear reactors and creating centrifuges which are
commonly used in medical research.
A gifted inventor, he also held at least 3
patents. He retired in 1992 and devoted his life to searching for
extra-terrestrial life, and investing on Wall Street, creating
complex algorithms, mostly in his head, that helped to transform
his modest retirement savings into an impressive investment
portfolio that grew to be valued at $14 million. Last January,
according to the Los Angeles Times, Sartory had a shy date with a
woman he met through an internet site for people with personality
disorders. They held hands.
His private life, however, was overshadowed by
mental illness. He believed the CIA had him under surveillance,
using specially trained ants. A tiny circle of loyal friends who
tolerated his occasional eccentricities would phone him almost
Apparently it was these friends who first
revealed that the scientist was missing. Last February, concerned
that he had stopped returning calls, Ann Cartee is said to have
contacted police, forwarding them a recent email he had allegedly
sent her detailing his worries about a local woman who had begun
"barging into" his home. By the time detectives had begun to piece
together what had happened, it was too late.
That woman, it is claimed, was Willa Blanc.
According to the police affidavit, she befriended the frail man,
tempted him into her home, forced him into the cellar, and tied
him up. It is the prosecution's case that Sartory, bound, gagged,
and unable to gain access to the medication he took each day to
prevent panic attacks, Sartory survived a few days. But
eventually, he became disturbed, and suffocated. The motive for
the crime, it seems, was straightforward greed.
Blanc apparently had a gambling habit and a
taste for expensive jewellery. After allegedly gaining power of
attorney over the elderly mathematician, she and her son, it is
alleged, embezzled US$200,000, spending vast portions of it in
casino boats on the Mississippi.
Though both suspects have pleaded not guilty to
murder, kidnapping, and embezzlement, detectives in the case claim
that a paper trail connecting Sartory's bank account, Blanc and
beneficiaries including her attorney and her mortgage company
leaves serious questions for them to answer.
According to the reports of officers who
searched the buildings where he spent his last days, his living
room had been converted into a monitoring station full of
computers that analysed radio signals from outer space in search
of alien life. The rest of the house was littered with "to do
lists" detailing his daily tasks, from brushing teeth to taking
Blanc's living room concealed darker secrets.
The police affidavit said that in a collection of books about the
law, the title of the most well-thumbed title "was along the lines
of How to Choose Your Prey".
Death penalty sought in Sartory case
December 3, 2009
BURLINGTON - Prosecutors plan to seek the death
penalty for the 48-year-old former cleaning woman accused of
kidnapping, drugging and killing a 73-year-old reclusive
Willa Blanc and her son, Louis Wilkinson, 28,
face complicity to murder, kidnapping, theft and abusing a corpse
charges in the death of Walter Sartory, whose burned body was
found in a field outside Indianapolis in March.
Sartory, a retired mathematician who suffered
from paranoid schizophrenia and a severe social phobia, had
numerous investments - many of which were transferred into Willa
Blanc's name after his death, investigators said.
Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith told
a judge Thursday that she intends to seek the death penalty for
Blanc, but has not decided whether to seek the same punishment for
Blanc and Wilkinson, both of Union, appeared in
Boone Circuit Court Thursday where Judge Tony Frohlich scheduled a
competency hearing for Wilkinson on Jan. 7.
After the mother and son were arrested at a
Sharonville motel March 14, Blanc told a public defender that
Wilkinson is "of low mental functioning and would be unable to
invoke his own right to counsel," according to court records. So,
she asked the public defenders to represent her son.
However, investigators at a hearing earlier
this year disputed that claim, saying Wilkinson was highly
intelligent and well-spoken.
After his arrest, Wilkinson began telling
detectives about what happened leading up to Sartory's death.
Wilkinson told deputies that he arrived at the house he shared
with his mother on Feb. 16 or 17 to find Sartory taped to a chair
in the basement. He also told deputies this his mother was
drugging Sartory and that he had to perform CPR on the elderly man
three times. After about a week, Wilkinson said he carried Sartory
to a van but was stopped by his mother.
He was not able to finish his story because a
judge ordered that detectives stop questioning him until he could
talk to the public defender his mother asked to represent him.
The mother and son are now represented by two
different public defenders.
Blanc's attorney, Joanne Lynch, asked the judge
Wednesday to reduce Blanc's bond from $10 million to $100,000
"We are asking to set what we believe is a more
reasonable bond," Lynch said. "We're not even anticipating that
our client could make that particular bond."
Lynch pointed out that Blanc's bond is more
than 13 times higher than any other inmate in the Boone County
Tally Smith asked the judge to not reduce the
bond, saying that Blanc tried to elude authorities and is a flight
"The gravity of the offenses clearly justify a
bond in that amount," Tally Smith said. "This is a
death-penalty-eligible offense and the Commonwealth plans to file
notice of intent to seek the death penalty."
Frohlich had not issued a ruling on the bond by
Investigators say after Sartory died his body
was stuffed in a trash can, driven to Indiana in a rented minivan
and burned. During Thursday's hearing an attorney for the
minivan's owner, BMC Rentals, asked that the van, which is being
held for evidence, be released.
Tally Smith said that both the prosecution and
defense are waiting for laboratory tests. After the results are
returned, the defense will have to decide if they need the
evidence to be independently evaluated.
But BMC attorney Jim Kidney told the judge that
the van was cleaned and rented eight times after Willa Blanc used
"It was sanitized," Kidney said. "If there was
anything there or any substance it has been compromised to the nth
The van has been held for 274 days and in that
time BMC has lost about $16,000 in rental fees it could have made
on the van, Kidney said.
Burned, Dismembered Remains Found; 2 Arrested
Woman, Son Took Money From, Killed Man
March 15, 2009
northern Kentucky spent much of Saturday in central Indiana after
remains they believe are that of a man missing since February were
found in some woods.
Investigators converged on a remote part of
the Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Paragon, in southwestern Morgan
County, where the remains were discovered, apparently dismembered
and burned, 6News Tanya Spencer reported.
Walter Sartory, 73, of
Hebron, Ky., was reported missing on March 4. His purported
caregiver, Willa Blanc, 47, and her son, Louis Wilkinson, 27, both
of Union, Ky., were arrested at a motel in Hamilton County, Ohio,
early Saturday morning in connection with the disappearance.
Blanc and Wilkinson both face charges of knowing exploitation of
an adult, tampering with physical evidence, kidnapping and abuse
of a corpse. Blanc was also charged with knowing abuse or neglect
of an adult.
Boone County, Ky., authorities said they're "99
percent sure" the remains that were found are that of Sartory.
"(Sartory was) pretty much a recluse -- no immediate family and no
friends to speak of here," said Boone County, Ky., sheriff's
Deputy Tom Scheben.
Sartory's relatives in Virginia called
police after they hadn't heard from him for a while.
held on $4 million bond, and Wilkinson was being held on $1
million bond, both in Ohio.
Police said Blanc was in the process
of transferring more than $1 million from Sartory's bank account
to hers when both accounts were frozen on Wednesday.
"She got a
little over $210,000 from him in a short period of time,
purporting to be his health care advocate," Scheben said.
Investigators said Blanc has an acquaintance in Morgan County and
recently rented a van and made a trip to Indiana under what they
called suspicious circumstances.
"(Sartory) was kidnapped. He
was held against his will and was dead before he was ever reported
missing," Scheben said.
Police blocked off the area in which the
remains were found and planned to return on Sunday to search for
Investigators hoped to gather enough evidence to
charge Blanc with murder.