Retired teacher convicted of pushing wife off a cliff in Maine to serve 10 years in prison



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ROCKLAND, Maine — A former Maine resident who bashed his wife on the head with a rock and pushed her off an 800-foot cliff will serve 10 years in prison under a sentenced imposed Thursday.

Charles Black, 71, faced a maximum of 30 years in prison after a Maine jury convicted him of six felonies, including attempted murder, in July. The judge imposed a 25-year sentence but suspended most of it and said Black will spend six years on probation upon his release.

A jury convicted Black of pushing his then-wife Lisa Zahn, 55, off of the 800-foot Maiden Cliff in Camden Hills State Park after hitting her in the head in April 2011. She survived, but both of them ended up tumbling down the mountainside and were hospitalized for more than a week, prosecutors said.

"It has been a living nightmare to accept the fact that the man I loved nearly succeeded in trying to kill me," Zahn said in court Thursday, adding that "peace and sleep are rare" since the attack.

Black and Zahn had been in a dispute about Black's online affair, and his spending of some of Zahn's $4 million inheritance without her permission, prosecutors have said.

They were retired teachers who moved to Camden after careers in Kansas, where Zahn won a host of awards for excellence in teaching. They divorced after nine years of marriage.

Black was convicted of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault.

He said in court Thursday that he had no memory of the incident — something he also maintained during the investigation and trial.

"However, a jury's found me guilty, and I must take responsibility for my actions," Black said.

Black's attorney, Walter McKee, said he wasn't sure yet if his client will file an appeal. He has three weeks to do so.

Judge Joyce Wheeler said she considered Black's age and his contributions to society as a teacher in issuing her sentence. She said she also considered the "insidious" nature of the crime.

"The psychological harm may last the rest of her life," she said.

Zahn said during the trial that she remembered being hit three times on the head before she was pulled to the cliff's edge.

Black told police he'd collected two rocks while they were hiking on the mountaintop, with the intention of tossing them over a cliff to symbolize a new start.

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