Woman gets life in killing of man with mental illness

BURLINGTON — A former Northern Kentucky house cleaner has been sentenced to life in prison in the murder of a retired Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientist.

Willa Blanc received the sentence Wednesday in Boone Circuit Court at Burlington, The Kentucky Enquirer reported.

Blanc, 50, pleaded guilty last month in the death of 73-year-old millionaire Walter Sartory to avoid the possibility of a death sentence if she were convicted at trial.

Sartory's burned body was found in March 2009 in Indiana about two weeks after friends from an Internet bulletin board reported him missing from his home in Hebron.

Authorities believe Sartory was kidnapped and taken to the basement of Blanc's home in Union, where he died about a week later.

Sartory's bank accounts were raided of about $200,000.

Prosecutor Linda Tally Smith said Blanc has expressed no remorse for Sartory's death.

"There's a difference between feeling bad for what happened and feeling bad for the fact that you got caught," she said.

Blanc stood silently as her sentence was imposed. She is not eligible for parole.

Her niece, Dorthea Smith, was one of five family members to attend the hearing.

"She's a very nice person, loving," Smith said. "Right or wrong, she took responsibility for her actions and she did it with pride and I'm proud of her."

A friend of Sartory, who had no family and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and a social phobia, drove eight hours to attend the hearing.

"He deserved some representation," said Elizabeth Kearley, of Charlotte, N.C., who met Sartory online 16 years ago. "He had a heart of gold. He had no reason to be killed like that."

Sartory met Blanc, who cleaned his neighbor's home, in 2008 and in the weeks before he disappeared Sartory told his online friends he thought she was trying to scam him.

Tally Smith said Sartory had moved to Hebron about a year before he died. He was in therapy and trying to interact more with people, she said.

"He had spent his life avoiding social situations because of the fact he was distrustful of other human beings," Tally Smith said. "The first time that he basically opened himself up to someone who was a stranger to him, it resulted in his death."

Blanc's son, Louis Wilkinson, 30, also faces charges in the case and is scheduled for trial later this month. He has pleaded not guilty.

Kearley said she never met Sartory but she and others communicated regularly with him online.

"His family was on his computer and they had no idea that he was as connected as he was. We were his family," she said.