Killer's Daughter Wants to See Her Mom, Aunt Tells Court
Posted July 24, 2007
Wilmington, N.C. — The daughter of convicted killer Ann Miller Kontz has been consistently withdrawn and has asked to see her mother, with whom she talks on the phone twice a week, the child's aunt testified Tuesday.
"Clare has expressed some desire to see Ann and has been sad," Danielle Wilson said during a hearing to determine whether the 7-year-old should be allowed to see her mother.
Kontz, who is serving 25 years in prison, pleaded guilty in 2005 to the fatal poisoning in 2000 of her husband, UNC-Chapel Hill pediatric AIDS researcher Eric Miller.
In February, District Judge Phyllis Gorham ordered Wilson, Kontz' sister, and her husband, not to take Clare Kontz to see her mother in prison.
Clare's paternal grandparents, Verus and Doris Miller, who share custody of Clare with the Wilsons, said they do not think it is in the child's best interest to visit Kontz in prison.
Late Tuesday afternoon, however, both sides agreed to have a court-appointed trauma expert assess the child and interview all parties involved, then make a recommendation about visitation.
The Millers' attorney, Robert Ponton, said his clients were unlikely to oppose the expert's recommendation and they hope they never have to go to court again on the case.
"I never would want to say we would automatically agree," Ponton said. "I think it would be extraordinarily unlikely that we would question what an agreeable trauma expert would say."
The Wilsons filed a motion in May asking that Gorham's decision be amended to allow the child to see her mother.
"I am here because I see my child struggling and I see her attitude affecting our house. I see her anger, and I see her sadness," Wilson said Tuesday. "I love her dearly, and that is why this breaks my heart."
Wilson also testified that shortly after they filed the motion, she had her first conversation with Clare about her father's death.
"(Kontz) stepped up, took responsibility," Wilson told the child, who cried after learning of her mother's involvement.
Wilson said Clare still wanted to see her mother, however.
Wilson also testified that she understands the Millers' concerns, but thought their anger over the death of their son makes it difficult for them to deal with what is in Clare's best interest.
"I think they have a lot of anger and hate," she said. "It's totally justified, but I think it skews their ability to look at Clare and what she needs."
The Wilsons are also petitioning the court to add their last name to Clare's, saying they want her to share their name so she fits in completely with their family.
"It is not her fault," Wilson said, adding that Clare's name is different (from her current family's) only because her mother committed murder. "It is not her burden to carry. I want her to know she is a full part of our family. By having her name different, it makes people ask. I don't think it's fair for her to constantly have to account for Ann's action."
The Millers have said they want the child to keep her name as legacy to her father.
The court-appointed trauma expert will also make a recommendation about the name change.
Both parties involved have until December to decide on who will assess Clare and the situation surrounding the legal dispute. If they can't decide by then, they will return to court for a status hearing.
Attorneys for both parties said they are hopeful they can decide on someone by December.
"We'll either resume the hearing, or not, depending on whether there's a consensus as to whether or not the trauma expert has come up with something we can all agree to," the Wilsons' attorney, James Lea, said.
Until then, the Wilsons will abide by Gorham's ruling that Clare not see her mother.
Kontz, 37, who was a researcher at GlaxoSmithKline at the time her husband died, was indicted and imprisoned in September 2004. On Nov. 8, 2005, she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, acknowledging she poisoned her then-husband at least twice with arsenic before his death on Dec. 2, 2000.
Initially, Raleigh police did not name Kontz as a suspect in Miller's death, but further into their investigation, investigators discovered an alleged romantic relationship Kontz had with a coworker at GSK and that they both had access to an arsenic compound where they worked.