A Payson judge set a trial date for a woman charged with taking advantage of her position to manipulate a dying woman into giving her and her then-husband a $500,000 estate Monday.
Starting Oct. 19, a 12-person jury will hear arguments regarding Heather Maureen Driscoll’s, 40, role in the late Alicia Christopherson’s trust.
Prosecutors maintain Driscoll and her former husband, Payson doctor Michael Lowe, took advantage of Christopherson by becoming her friend and having her turn her estate over to them before she died.
Prosecutors say Christopherson was not legally capable to change her estate in July of 2003 due to dementia.
However, defense attorneys on both sides say because Christopherson re-signed the same trust agreement a year later, this time witnessed by a notary and a neighbor, she was in a mental state to alter her trust.
Before this final signing, Christopherson had changed her will several times, initially leaving the money with a grandson and in one version, hospice.
Lowe became Christopherson’s doctor in 2002 and testimony showed that the doctor, Driscoll and their daughter began visiting Christopherson socially well before she re-drafted her trust agreement.
Before she died, Driscoll reportedly used Christopherson’s money to purchase a $14,000 Land Rover.
However, defense attorneys say there is no evidence that anyone drove the SUV, beyond the insurance policy in Driscoll’s name.
On March 21, Driscoll’s attorney Michael Bernays argued in court that grand jury proceedings should be thrown out because police and prosecutors had manipulated and misled the grand jury.
Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill rejected that motion and on Monday set a firm trial date in Payson.
The trial should last four to five days, Bernays said.
A case management conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on June 27.
Dr. Lowe will be in court at 11 a.m. on May 2 for a case management conference.