Verdict reached in fake death horse ranch suit
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Valley doctor and his wife who made up a phony life of royalty, then faked her death with her husband's help will now have to pay out more than $1.5 million for their deception.
Cheryl Skigin shed a few tears after a multi-million dollar verdict in her favor and not for the first time.
The horse lover invested in a Parlier-area ranch in 2008, only to find out it wasn't what she thought it was, and neither were the people who sold the ranch to her and her husband.
"We thought we were dealing with this poor grieving widower who was this fine upstanding citizen. We had no clue," Skigin said.
Dr. Michael Weilert sold Skigin the sprawling 15 acre ranch, passing it off as the ideal horse ranch, built by his late wife, Genevieve de Montremare.
Her obituary celebrated de Montremare's expertise with Friesian horses.
But after Skigin found out the ranch wasn't what she thought she bought, she was in for an even bigger surprise.
"I think the most shocking thing was to find out that Genevieve de Montremare was not only dead, but not Genevieve de Montremare," Skigin said.
Skigin's lawsuit brought de Montremare back from the dead, but also unearthed the lies in her life story.
Raised in the South Valley, Genevieve Sanders started talking with a French accent later in life
For more than a decade, she lied about being descended from French royalty and Skigin wasn't the only one who was fooled.
One horse show even gave out an award as a memorial to de Montremare after her fake death in 2007.
"I think they could write five books over this and make this a fantastic soap opera. Who ever heard of such a thing?" a juror named Samantha said.
Jurors never heard from de Montremare during the trial and, knowing the 50-year-old is indeed still alive, they told me they wondered why she wasn't in court.
"I just can't believe someone can make something up like that. And for what purpose? I don't understand unless this is pure greed or a mental breakdown," Samantha said.
De Montremare avoided talking to attorneys in the case, claiming health issues, so the judge wouldn't let her testify.
Her attorney says he may appeal the case and at that point, she may have the chance to finally tell the truth.
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