Richard Conte on Day 1 of his Capital Murder Trial. (Photo: Lisa Hutson, KTHV)
Lark Schwartz, Ex-Wife of Conte and murder victim Carter Elliott
CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) -- The capital murder trial for Richard Conte began Tuesday with three testimonies before Judge Crawson dismissed court due to weather conditions.
Prosecutors said Conte is responsible for the 2002 murders of Carter Elliott and Timothy Robertson. Both men were found dead from gunshot wounds inside Elliott's Conway home.
Conte is now 62-years-old and entered the courtroom in a wheelchair. His attorneys said he suffers from MS and has such bad eyesight that he must use a magnifying glass to read.
In the prosecution's opening statement, they explained Carter Elliott had married his wife Lark in 1974 and had two children. They divorced in 1992. Elliott began dating Brandy Adams in 2001 and on May 19th, 2002, Adams arrived at Elliott's home to find his body and the body of his friend Timothy Robertson just inside the doorway.
The prosecution said Elliott's ex-wife, now Lark Schwartz, had married Richard Conte, an emergency room doctor in Carson City, Nevada. After a disturbing few months of marriage, Schwartz filed for divorce on May 8, 2002 and just eleven days later, her first husband was murdered.
The prosecution told jurors they would prove Richard Conte was responsible for Carter and Robertson's deaths.
Defense attorneys for Richard Conte told jurors in opening statements that Conte could not have committed the murders because he had been at his cabin home in Duck Creek, Utah the weekend of the shootings.
They said an eye-witness placed Conte at his Utah home that weekend, but that witness has since passed away. They also reminded jurors that no fingerprints, forensic or DNA evidence linked Conte to the crime scene.
While Conte was an avid gun collector, according to ballistic evidence the bullets fired at the crime scene did not come from any of this guns.
Prosecution's First Witness - Brandi Adams, girlfriend of Carter Elliott in 2002.
- Adams last saw Elliott and Robertson at Elliott's home Friday, May 17th 2002.
- Adams spent the night with her parents in Brinkley Friday and drove to Memphis, TN Saturday with her girlfriends for a bachelorette party.
- Last spoke to Elliott late Saturday evening over the phone.
- Sunday, Adams and her friend Emily Canada drove to Elliott's home in Conway for a pool party.
- Adams opened the front door to find the bodies of Elliott and Robertson.
- Both Adams and Canada ran to a neighbor to call police.
Prosecution's Second Witness - Emily Canada, friend of Adams and Elliott
- Canada attended bachelorette party in Memphis with Adams on Saturday, May 18th.
- Knew Elliott as a frequent customer of a restaurant she worked at in Conway.
- Was with Adams when the two found Elliott and Robertson's bodies inside Elliott's home.
Prosecution's Third Witness - Lark Elliott-Schwartz, ex-wife of Elliott and Conte
- Schwartz was married to Carter Elliott for 18 years and had two children before divorcing in 1992.
- After the divorce, Schwartz stayed in Conway for three years before moving to Katy, Texas near Houston.
- Schwartz lived in Houston for three years before moving to Salt Lake City, Utah where her sister and brother-in-law lived.
- Schwartz met Conte through her sister and brother-in-law.
- Schwartz worked as a dental hygienist in Salt Lake City and lived in a condo in the city.
- Schwartz and Conte began dating in January 2001, broke up in early April but reconciled.
- Schwartz and Conte got engaged in May 2001, legally married October 19th and had an island ceremony December 1st.
- Conte (who she called Dick) told Schwartz he was recruited out of high school by a company that employed him as an assassin for the U.S. government.
- Conte used the alias "Palladen".
- At one point, Conte told Schwartz he had gone to Cambodia to do a special mission. He wrote her a letter saying he had gone over the Emperor's gate to pick her a rose from his garden. When he returned, Conte gave Schwartz the rose pressed inside a book.
- Conte told Schwartz his log cabin home in Duck Creek, Utah was a military safe house for military friends.
- In the cabin, Schwartz describes seeing several firearms, cameras and phone tap recorders under the beds.
- After they married, Schwartz kept the condo in Salt Lake City and traveled back and forth from the Carson City, Nevada home.
- Conte worked as an emergency room doctor at the local hospital, two weeks on , two weeks off.
- Schwartz did not see Conte's Carson City home until after they married and says it too had several weapons, cameras and recording devices along with a "meat hook" inside his bedroom.
- Schwartz says after she moved in with Conte, their relationship began to deteriorate.
- Schwartz told Conte she wanted a divorce right after Valentine's Day 2002. Conte did not take it well, crying and begging her to stay.
- The two were separated but continued to contact each other via email and phone calls.
- April 13th 2002, Schwartz and Elliott held an engagement party for their daughter in Salt Lake City.
- Conte continued to pursue Schwartz with flowers, gifts and jewelry.
- Schwartz began to find hundreds of romantic cards sprayed with perfume around her home from Conte who still knew the combination to her condo.
- On April 17th, Conte called Schwartz and all she heard was massive gunfire and explosions in the background. Conte told her he was in Afghanistan pinned under an SUV and that he would probably die. He told her he loved her and they were disconnected.
- A week or so later, Conte came to Salt Lake City to show Schwartz where he had been shot.
- Schwartz filed for divorce May 8th, 2002.
- Schwartz heard of Elliott's murder and traveled back to Arkansas for the funeral on May 23rd.
- While in Conway, Schwartz communicated with Conte.
- In reference to Elliott's murder, Conte told Schwartz that a bullet left next to a victim's head is a signature of the killer.
- On June 20th, Schwartz came home to her Salt Lake City condo to find Conte there with a gun in one hand and a stun gun in the other.
- Conte tied Schwartz down, threatened to kill her and forced her to drink a red liquid.
- Schwartz passed out and woke up handcuffed in the bed of Conte's truck.
- Conte was crying and threatened to kill her and himself, then hit her with the stun gun again.
- Schwartz woke up again handcuffed to Conte's bed at his home in Carson City, Nevada.
- Emails for Schwartz's email address were sent to her children asking them not to look for her, she was running away.
- Schwartz says she did not write those emails.
- Schwartz' children became worried and called police and she was rescued the next day.