GREENFIELD — The Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned a local judge’s findings in a legal battle over the estate of a Greenfield man who was killed by his wife in 2013.
The appellate court found that half of a gun collection owned by the late Gary Roberts should have remained in his estate and not have been inherited by his wife, Elizabeth Roberts, who shot him in their rural Greenfield home and committed suicide several months later.
For more than a year, the assets in Gary Roberts’ estate — his gun collection sold at auction for more than $500,000 — have been tangled up in an outstanding lawsuit filed by Martha Blevins of Greenfield, who was in a car accident involving Gary Roberts shortly before his death.
Blevins was seriously injured in the accident, having broken her collarbone, pelvis, right leg, left ankle and multiple ribs, said her attorney, Kevin Betz. She also suffered a brain injury, Betz said.
Gary Roberts was estimated to have been driving more than 100 miles per hour when he struck Blevins’ car as she was pulling out of her driveway, Betz said.
Blevins already has received $150,000 from Gary Roberts’ estate, but Betz said his client’s care is ongoing.
“The accident was as violent as an accident can be,” he said.
Betz did not specify a dollar amount his client is seeking, adding that because her injuries have not fully healed, it is impossible to predict what her final medical bills will be.
But assuring half the gun collection remains in Gary Roberts’ estate will allow Blevins to seek more in damages.
Elizabeth Roberts shot and killed her husband after reporting to local law enforcement that he suffered from drug and alcohol abuse, and she feared he was going to hurt himself or others.
Police were on the way to the Roberts home to confiscate Gary Roberts’ weapons and take him in for an evaluation when Elizabeth Roberts admitted to her husband that she had contacted police.
Elizabeth Roberts told police her husband was enraged. Gary Roberts reportedly went to his basement, where he had an extensive collection of weapons, and began loading a gun.
His wife shot him, an act the prosecutor later said was in defense of others when he declined to file charges.
Elizabeth Roberts took a lethal overdose of medication months later.
Hancock Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver ruled in June 2014 that Gary Roberts’ gun collection constituted household goods.
The distinction was important; household goods are inherited by a surviving spouse’s estate.
The appellate court overturned Culver’s ruling, stating that because Elizabeth Roberts had little access to the gun collection kept in the basement, the guns could not be argued to be household goods.
After Elizabeth Roberts committed suicide, the guns were sold at auction, bringing in more than $500,000. Some of that money was to be earmarked for local charities, officials said.
Attorney Eric Allen, who handled both the Robertses’ estates, said he has not determined whether to fight the appellate court ruling.
“Not sure what we’re gonna do with it yet because the court of appeals, what they did was reweigh the evidence in front of the judges … that’s not what they’re supposed to do,” Allen said.
If Allen contests the ruling, the Indiana Supreme Court will weigh the matter.