Mother, son charged in death

HEBRON — A wealthy Kentuckian thought to be the man whose remains were found in Indiana was known to former co-workers as a brilliant but reclusive mathematician who was reluctant to put his name on a patent and refused a face-to-face interview for a lucrative job.

Police investigators said remains recovered Friday in woods near Indianapolis are thought to be those of Walter Sartory, 73, who was reported missing more than two weeks ago.

A woman and her son have been arrested in Ohio and returned to Kentucky to face charges stemming from the disappearance of the Northern Kentucky man, authorities said.

Authorities are investigating whether Sartory's disappearance might be tied to his assets of $1.5 million.

Willa Blanc, also known as Willa Crawford, was arraigned Tuesday in Boone District Court, The Kentucky Enquirer reported on its Web site. Authorities said they charged her with kidnapping, tampering with physical evidence, abuse of a corpse, knowing abuse or neglect of an adult and two counts of knowing exploitation of an adult.

Judge Charles Moore kept Blanc's bail at $4 million. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 23.

Blanc, 47, who is being represented by a public defender, appeared in court by video. She and her son, Louis Wilkinson, were in the Boone County jail.

Wilkinson, 27, was not arraigned Tuesday because Moore said he should not be represented by his mother's public defender. Wilkinson is charged with kidnapping, tampering with physical evidence, abuse of a corpse and knowing exploitation of an adult, authorities said. He was being held on $1 million bond.

Sartory helped design centrifuges used in medical research, the newspaper reported.

He had at least two patents related to centrifuges and wrote scientific papers on the subject, according to some of his former co-workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee.

Former co-worker John Eveleigh of Pawleys Island, S.C., recalled Sartory as a loner.

"Walt had very few friends," he said, and largely kept to himself.

He added that Sartory was so shy, he passed over a chance at a lucrative job in private industry once because he refused a face-to-face interview.

Eveleigh and Sartory were co-inventors of a centrifuge, but Sartory was reluctant to have his name included on the patent, Eveleigh added.

"He didn't want any publicity," Eveleigh said. "He shied away from it."

Brian Halsall of Cincinnati, who also worked with Sartory at Oak Ridge, said Sartory lived modestly but liked fast cars.

Sartory lived alone in a home he bought about a year ago. He does not have family in the area, and was reported missing Feb. 26 when friends from Virginia couldn't contact him.

Authorities would not say how Blanc met Sartory, but she described herself to others as Sartory's caretaker, according to Boone County sheriff's spokesman Tom Scheben.

Investigators suspect that Blanc and Wilkinson kidnapped Sartory and held him captive for three days to a week, Scheben said.

Deputies were led to Indiana by someone who said Blanc had recently made a trip there.