Woman who fakes death in sale of Parlier ranch lost case

FRESNO, Calif.

The battle over a Parlier ranch uncovered mysteries dating back decades and brought a former raisin queen back to life.

The jury decided the sale of that ranch was built on a lot of lies and deception amounting to fraud.

They awarded the plaintiffs more than $700 thousand in damages with punitive damages still to be decided next week.

Cheryl Skigin and her husband bought the 15-acre ranch along the Kings River from Dr. Michael Weilert.

Weilert's wife Genevieve grew up in Lindsay, but she started speaking with a French accent later in life, changed her name to Genevieve De Montremare, and claimed to be descended from French royalty. She later faked her death with her husband also in on the ruse. She never made herself available for depositions in the case, claiming bad health, and the judge eventually ruled that Genevieve wasn't allowed to testify.

When jurors decided the Weilerts misdirections amounted to false representation, I asked their attorney if Genevieve's presence would've made a difference.

Steven Paganetti said, "What affect that would've had ultimately on the trial, we don't know. That's something that's more of a juror question."

I tried to reach Genevieve a couple times before and during the trial, and actually received an email from someone claiming to be her. But during the trial, Dr. Weilert admitted he and another woman also had access to that email account.

Jurors spent almost six weeks listening to testimony in the case, but only about three hours deliberating on their verdict. They'll be back next week to decide how much the Weilerts should pay in punitive damages to the people who bought the ranch.

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