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Alberta Comstock on witness stand (courtesy Springfield News Leader)

She was mad....but was she mad enough to kill or have someone kill for her?

That's the question a civil jury in Greene County will answer this week in regard to the wrongful death lawsuit of prominent attorney and world renowned book collector Rolland Comstock.

Comstock's daughter, Faith Socker, believes her mother, Alberta, is responsible for the murder of her adopted  father on July 2, 2007.

Faith Stocker  (courtesy Springfield News Leader)
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Defense attorney's for Mrs. Comstock say there is "not one single shred of evidence" that ties their client to the crime scene.

Wrongful death lawsuit's aren't unusual, but in this case it is as there have never been any criminal charges filed against anyone for the murder of Rolland Comstock.

When Rolland Comstock began collecting books, many of them signed first editions, he assuredly had no idea that his death would rival any one of the murder mysteries that lined the shelves in his home library.

Stuart King, who represents Stocker, says his client was convinced of her mother's involvement after she saw pictures of a black attache` case containing confidential legal paperwork, including a handwritten medical directive, belonging to her mother on a sofa inside Comstock's mansion after he was found dead by his longtime assistant Becky Wilcox-Frakes -- and Alberta's admission that she had not been in the house in months.

The Comstock's were divorced in 2005 after thirty eight years of marriage after Alberta Comstock found a matchbook to a gay resort inside a jacket pocket belonging to her husband.  Rolland Comstock admitted that he had been intimate with "someone from the book world" and other young men, but wanted to remain married and "live as things had been the last few years."  Their net worth at the time of the divorce was $1.725 million dollars.

Rolland Comstock
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Alberta Comstock wasn't interested in living a lie and believes homosexuality is wrong.  However, she was interested in embarrassing the former state representative and causing him emotional pain. "I couldn't stand to look at him," she told jurors.

Alberta Comstock showed Greene County probate clerk, Dana Gray, pictures of Rolland in a compromising position with a man and a second picture of that man naked.  Alberta Comstock told the woman she barely knew that she wanted those who had a high opinion of Rolland to know the real Rolland Comstock.

As part of the couples divorce agreement, Rolland Comstock was ordered to pay his former wife 214,000.00 by December 31, 2005.  When a bank rejected a $15,000.00 check because Comstock's assistant Becky Frakes, who had worked for Comstock for 38 years had signed it. A cashier's check was then sent to Alberta to replace it.  She claimed to have never received the check, so a second was issued with the understanding that if she received it she was to write void on it and send it to her attorney.
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Rolland Comstock's assistant Becky Wilcox-Frakes

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But when Rolland was late with the last payment of $54,000.00 all hell broke loose. Alberta Comstock filed legal paperwork to have his law office sold in order to receive her money.  Rolland Comstock had his attorney and best friend, Bob Stillings, obtain a check for the amount owed, plus interest, in January and delivered to the Greene County Sheriff's Office so the business office would not be sold.  Alberta Comstock did not pick up the check and a judge quashed (set aside) Mrs. Comstock's case.

After Mrs. Comstock had filed many lawsuits and showed those compromising photographs to Rolland's colleagues, he and Stillings made the legal decision to seek remedy in federal court.  The federal lawsuit accused her of essentially using the county court system to file frivolous lawsuits against Rolland Comstock.  The discord and "the constant back and forth was never gonna end," Stillings told jurors.

During one deposition Alberta Comstock stated, "I lived with that man for 38 years, and nothing, my life is gone."

Stillings stated on the witness stand that by the time of court ordered mediation, "Alberta Comstock's anger had turned to disdain and disgust for Rolland's activities ." He also told investigators that Rolland would have no reason to be in possession of the original legal documents between Mrs. Comstock and her attorney - or her personal medical directive.
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Comstock's Greene County mansion

At the heart of the matter was the northern Greene County mansion that sits on 13.5 acres near Willard that they both loved.  As per the divorce agreement the house was put on the market for $800,000.00 (the homes price was later reduced to $675,000.00) and Rolland Comstock was allowed to live in it for two years.
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Attorneys for Alberta Comstock say she received a call from the realtor on June 25, 2007, who told her Rolland was not maintaining the house.  Frakes told jurors that whenever the Comstock's would talk about finances and the house, "She [Alberta] would scream for revenge."
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The listing agreement for the house expired the day before Rolland Comstock was found murdered.
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At a deposition in 2007 Stillings asked Mrs. Comstock if by filing the lawsuits she was trying to embarrass her former husband,  she replied - "No, I wanted my money is all and I didn't trust him to give it to me."

The former lead investigator for the Greene County Sheriff's Office, Frank Duren, told jurors the house was filthy and that the wolves had urinated and defecated throughout the house and had used furniture as chew toys. 
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Duren said that the kitchen, dining room and den area on the bottom floor of the house had so many ticks covering it that they crunched and exploded under investigators feet leaving bloody footprints.  He also testified that other than crime scene investigators bloody footprints the only other footprints anywhere near where Comstock was found belonged to the dead man.

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Greene County Detective Kenny Weatherford was called in from vacation and sent to interview Alberta Comstock at her home in Fairland, Oklahoma.  He says he and Lt. Deborah Wade interviewed the frail elderly woman twice that night.  During the first interview she told him someone had stolen a .38 revolver that former Greene County Judge Burrell had given her years ago while she had been recently hospitalized.  She also told them she had gone to a gun store (The Firing Line) near her home that day to have .22 repaired.  When that gun could not be fixed, she purchased another .38 revolver.

When Weatherford and Wade went back about an hour later they mirandized Mrs. Comstock and seized the new gun (which has been eliminated as the murder weapon) and ammo as evidence.  They did not gather any shoes or clothing as evidence, according to Weatherford.  After the second interview Alberta Comstock quit talking to authorities and started invoking her fifth amendment privilege on the advice of her attorney.

Mike Friend, the owner of the gun shop that sits near the MO/OK border, said that Mrs. Comstock paid him in cash with money she kept in a dark bag and told him she was going to go target shooting in Missouri the next day.  On the witness stand this week he said she simply pointed in a direction toward Missouri.  He also testified that Mrs. Comstock had a difficult time handling the gun with one hand, "She wasn't physically strong enough with one hand and with one finger on the trigger to pull it," said Friend.
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According to court records Alberta Comstock tested partial positive for Gun Shot Residue (GSR.)  Friend told jurors he fired the gun that Comsock purchansed a few times and that Mrs. Comstock handled the gun after it had been fired.
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Tina Williams Anderson, who worked for Murphy Oil in Monett when Rolland Comstock was murdered   told investigators in 2008 that she remembered Alberta Comstock's red truck with the distinctive front license plate of a smiley face was parked near the business after 4 p.m. on July 2nd.  No video surveillance was gathered from the store or the nearby Wal-Mart.

In 2009 she changed her statement and remembered a woman with gray hair paying for her purchase and noticed the vehicle as the sun was setting around 8 p.m. - yet changed it again in 2010, according to defense attorney Shane Cantin.  In 2008 Anderson pleaded guilty in Lawrence County to statutory rape and sodomy for an incident in 2006.

Comstock in his beloved home libary (courtesy Springfield News Leader)
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Very little has been known about the ongoing investigation into Comstock's murder, but current lead investigator Weatherford admitted when questioned by Cantin, that authorities did not collect the black attache` case containing Alberta Comstock's legal documents until after the crime scene had been released on July 4th - and did not note that Rolland Comstock's most prized possession, a signed first edition of "Lord of the Flies," worth thousands of dollars was found on a kitchen counter and not inside his beloved home library.


Rolland Comstock's beloved home library
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Weatherford also told jurors that there is no DNA evidence, hairs or fingerprints that tie Alberta Comstock to the crime scene.

Defense attorneys called a neighbor of Rolland's, Lena Appl, who testified she saw a black truck and a silver truck outside the Comstock mansion on either July 2 or July 3, 2007.  Another neighbor, Mac Mathis, told jurors he believes he heard three or four gunshots coming from Comstock's house the evening of July 2, 2007, when he was outside working on a car.

Alberta Comstock admitted to investigators that the briefcase was hers but says that she left it outside the gate for Rolland in an effort to help him with another case.  Lab results from the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab found no gravel or vegetation transfer on the case.  Stillings says Rolland Comstock would not have made any kind of deal with his ex-wife without his knowledge.

Defense attorney's say it was an illusion of security at the gate of the home that was supposed to keep intruders away.  The automatic gate that needed a code punched in outside the gate to open it was rarely, if ever, used because the gates closed too slowly and let the hybrid wolves out.  Instead people familiar with the routine at Comstock House got out of their vehicle and unhooked a chain that was wrapped around the top of the gate then got out back out of their vehicle-shut the gate and wrapped the chain back after they entered.

Author Harry Crews note to Rolland
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Cantin says a "significant" amount of money that Mr. Comstock kept in a kitchen drawer was found to be missing after he was murdered.  He maintains that young men Mr. Comstock employed to work in his beloved home library, other family members, friends or whomever else who knew that the back sliding door was routinely left unlocked could be responsible for Comstock's death.

Alberta Comstock, who suffers from dementia, ongoing heart problems and has had at least two strokes told jurors that she and Rolland had a happy marriage - noting that they traveled frequently and raised five children.

In the past she has refused to answer some questions posed to her by her daughters attorney.  She refused to answer attorney King's questions about when she was last inside her former home, who her phone providers were/are, whom she may have seen or talked to on July 2 - 4, 2007, or when she had last seen the gun that Judge Burrell had given her.

When King asked her if she caused Rolland Comstock's death, she again took the fifth.  When he asked her if she had told News Leader reporter Amos Bridges she wanted him to die of from a heart attack she said-  "No I said I expected him to die of a heart attack."

Robert Wiley, who is now a judge in Stone County and was Alberta Comstock's attorney, told jurors that he made a mistake on some paperwork related to the divorce noting that the original judgment awarded to Alberta was for $115,000 when it was actually closer to $215,000, leaving an unpaid balance of nearly $70,000.00.  Wiley testified that he had to file another motion with the court to get the mistake corrected because Stillings was uncooperative.


Wiley testified that he was unaware that a check for $54,000.00 was left at the sheriff's office. Wiley said if Alberta Comstock had accepted the check it could appear that she agreed with Stillings and that it could be perceived that she accepted it as full payment.

King wants jurors to believe that Wiley and Mrs. Comstock were more interested in the constant legal wrangling and embarrassing Rolland Comstock.
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Alberta Comstock's sister, Carmel Rhoten, told jurors that in late June she took her sister to visit her ex-husband and to return some books (one of them being Lord of the Flies,) but she stayed in the vehicle.  When Alberta came back, she said Rolland wasn't home.  A short time later Alberta told her she forgot her black bag inside the house but didn't need to go back inside because it didn't contain anything important and she would get it at another time.

Rhoten testified that she saw her 71 year-old sister at her home in Fairland, Oklahoma, (she lives across the street from her sister) twice on the night of July 2, 2007 around the time authorities believe Rolland Comstock was murdered.

King pointed out to jurors that there are now inconsistencies in the sister's testimony.  One of them being the contradictions in Alberta Comstock's statement to authorities that she had not been inside the house for a considerable length of time and her leaving the attache` case at the front gate.
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Another of Comstock's daughters, Sherry Rose, told jurors she learned of her adopted father's murder from her husband Allen who heard about it at the Greene County courthouse.  "Apparently Becky Frakes called the court and the public administrator's office and all over town, but didn't call me" she said.


Sherry and Allen Rose in the rotunda of the Greene County courthouse attend Comstock's memorial service (courtesy SNL)


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Allen Rose is a probate attorney who shared an office with Rolland Comstock for years.  Sherry Rose testified that her father's death has divided the family.  She says she is going to have to sue her sister and her father's estate for what was left to her in his will.
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Lawyers on both sides have continually mentioned drug abuse by Stephen and Michael "Andy" Comstock.  In search warrant returns and testimony in the trial it has been revealed that Andy Comstock's DNA was found on a cigarette butt inside the mansion that he was not allowed inside.
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In the days following her father's death, as Frakes and Stocker took control over her dad's estate, communication among the siblings ceased, according to Rose.

She told jurors she was not even able to attend her father's funeral, even after attempts to learn of it from the funeral home, "I was not at my father's funeral because no one knew when it was," she said.

When asked if she was part of the wrongful death lawsuit against her mother she responded, "Why would I? I'm outraged at this whole thing," she said.
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Frank Duren was called back to the stand to clear up issues related to Alberta Comstock's missing gun.  He told jurors that Carmel Roten remembered seeing the gun inside a trailer in Dade County on some property Comstock's son-in-law owned.

Duren was recalled to the stand and told jurors that Allen Rose gave authorities consent to search the Dade County property.  However, they could not search the trailer because it was owned by Comstock.  When authorities arrived Duren said it appeared the trailer had been broken into and had been ransacked and it was checked to see if anyone was inside, but not serched.
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Faith Stocker was also recalled and testified that she had not set up proper accounting practices for the trust or had not been sending annual statements to the parties of her father's estate because she was still "devastated" at the loss of her father.

Stocker also admitted taking personal loans from the trust to help her business and said she co-mingled trusts funds accounts with her personal accounts to save $150.00 a month in bank fees for maintaining three separate accounts.

Alberta Comstock's attorney's Shane Cantin and Evelyn Mangan want jurors to believe that Stocker misused trust assets.  Stocker's attorney Stuart King told jurors that as a trustee Stocker can withdraw funds as she sees fit...but that she will repay the trust. 

"If any person of interest could have committed this crime holy cow let's look at Rolland's son Michael," Cantin said. "He is a known meth user who has been violent with the family in the past." Cantin says Michael Comstock also stole a .38 caliber gun from Rolland Comstock's home. "Faith isn't suing Michael Comstock because he is a drug user and has nothing she is suing her mother for the last remaining assets she has."
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Frakes, who is the executrix of Rolland Comstock's estate, told jurors that Comstock's estate settled for $250,000.00 with Alberta Comstock for her half of the house.  The house sold for about $400,000 in May of 2009 after failing to garner a single bid at an auction in June of 2008.

The jury is expected to get the case this afternoon.
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~BREAKING ~
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The jury began deliberating shortly after noon.
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Jurors have asked to see Tina Williams, the Murphy Oil clerk's time card, crime lab reports, Alberta and her sister's depositions and financial records.  They also asked who a monetary judgement would be awarded to.
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~VERDICT 5:34 p.m.~
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The jury has decided that they believe Alberta Comstock was responsible for the murder of her ex-husband, Rolland.
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They awarded Faith Stocker no actual damages.  However, they ruled that the estate should receive the $250,000 Alberta Comstock got for her share of the mansion.  When they whittled it down to aggravated circumstances, the actual awarded amount was $125,000.00.  The decision on how the money will be divided will be made at a later date.

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