The Kansas Court of Appeals recently upheld a 2016 ruling by Senior Judge William “Buck” Lyle that the codicil, or addition, to Hays millionaire Earl O. Field’s will was fraudulent. The will moved the majority of his estate to his employee Wanda Oborny.
Wealth Advisor reports in the story “Kansas Bookkeeper Loses Claim On $20M Boss Estate” that the Court of Appeals found that “…a rational fact-finder could have found it highly probable that Oborny or someone other than Field, at Oborny’s behest, signed the purported codicil instead of Field,” the Appeals Court concluded. “Oborny’s testimony was often inconsistent. She had a history of taking other person’s money,” the Court said.
Oborny was a part-time bookkeeper for Field, who was 98 when he died on February 19, 2013. The Court stated that “Oborny was not present when Field died, because she had to ‘run to the bank.’” She testified that she went to her boss’ office in a bank building on the evening he died and happened to discover two typewritten letters—one addressed to her—that altered the directions for his estate.
Oborny’s testimony was inconsistent and expert witnesses argued that the handwriting, typed letters, and reconstructed shredded letter incriminated her. She had her friends sign as witnesses on the fake codicil. Interestingly, Oborny and the witnesses had an hour-long phone call on the day Field died.
Even more bizarre was the fact that FBI special agents visited the witnesses’ home on August 20, 2015 to get their statements, but the next day their bodies were discovered at a nearby state park in a murder-suicide that took place the day before. When a police detective searched the witnesses’ home on August 21, the couple’s adult son showed him a federal subpoena for the husband to appear before a grand jury the following month.
The two witnesses gave videotaped depositions in the case, before they died.
In the appeal, Oborny contended that the trial judge “drew impermissible inferences from the irrelevant fact that the Littles died in a murder-suicide after being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” the Appeals Court ruling noted. She claimed the judge erred in “stacking” two inferences to impeach the witnesses’ testimony.
The Court of Appeals wasn’t convinced.
Oborny also faces federal charges of mail fraud related to the Field will.
Reference: Wealth Advisor (February 26, 2018) “Kansas Bookkeeper Loses Claim On $20M Boss Estate”