A weeklong wrongful death trial ended Friday with jurors awarding $30 million to the estate of Martha Darlene Roberts, who was brutally slain in April 2006 near the Alabama-Georgia line.

Vernon Roberts, as the representative of his late wife’s estate, sued Barbara Roberts, his ex-wife, and Dr. Robert John Schiess in U.S. District Court in Rome for punitive damages concerning the murder of his wife.

Schiess’ lawyer referred to the civil case as a quasi-murder trial and argued that Schiess had stepped up for his part in the crime when he pleaded guilty to a lesser kidnapping charge — but did not murder Darlene Roberts.

Barbara Roberts, who was previously convicted of murder, was not in attendance and did not present a defense.

Prior to sending jurors out for deliberation, Judge Harold L. Murphy told them that if they awarded damages, it was up to them to come up with an amount.

Jurors Christopher Hitchler and Jerry Sanford said the $30 million was an abstract sum to be split between the two defendants.


Rome News Tribune