April 20, 2019

Waldo County woman to be memorialized > Family says daughter was murdered

BELFAST — A Waldo County woman who died during a 1993 horseback ride will be memorialized on a fabric panel on The Coverup Quilt that will be displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., next month.

Judith Black Ziobron, mother of two, was killed Thanksgiving weekend 1993 while riding at her farm on the city’s outskirts. Although the official cause of death was listed as a fall from a horse, independent medical experts retained by her family suggested she was murdered.

The Coverup Quilt was created by Parents Against Corruption and Cover-up, a Virginia-based family group.

The group’s founders, Tom Burkett and Beth George, established the quilt as a memorial to loved ones who, they believe, have been murdered and denied justice because of flawed investigations or cover-ups. This is the third year the growing number of quilt panels will be placed on the federal mall.

The official cause of Ziobron’s death was ruled as accidental by the state Medical Examiner’s Office. However, Waldo County Superior Court Justice Ian MacInnes in 1996 ruled against her husband, Edward Ziobron, in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her family.

Edward Ziobron never appeared to answer the suit. While Ziobron’s failure to appear cannot be construed as an admission of guilt, MacInnes ruled in favor of the family and attached the couple’s farm for damages.

“Why would you give up a farm worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars?” Dorothy Black asked Thursday. “He fled the state with my grandson three weeks after Judy’s death. We have no idea where he is.”

Shortly after his wife’s death, Ziobron denied Black access to her grandson, Zachary, who was 2 at the time. Judith Black’s other child, Brooke, 9, went to live with her father, Jon Pinkham, after the death of her mother.

Dorothy Black was successful in obtaining grandparent visitation rights from a Belfast District Court judge. By the time that occurred, Edward Ziobron had already left the state.

When Edward Ziobron defaulted on the wrongful death suit, Black and Pinkham lost the opportunity to present evidence supporting their suspicions. Had the case gone to trial, they were prepared to introduce testimony that they were convinced would prove that Ziobron had motive and opportunity to kill his wife.

A few weeks before her death, Judith Ziobron had told her husband she wanted a divorce. She was transferring her job out of state and intended sell the farm and take her children with her.

On the day she died, Ziobron went for a ride on her stallion Arion and never returned. Her husband discovered her body in the woods and summoned the police. Based on Ziobron’s autopsy and statements given by police officers called to the scene, the state Medical Examiner’s Office determined she was trampled by her horse. Her face was gashed, she suffered a number of deep wounds to the head, she had fractured ribs, and her heart muscle was ruptured, according to court records.

Black and Pinkham sought separate opinions from Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist from New York City, and James H. McElhaney, a biomedical engineer from Duke University. According to reports filed with the wrongful death suit, both found “nothing” about Ziobron’s wounds to suggest they were caused by falling off a horse.

Parents Against Corruption and Cover-up has petitioned Congress to set national standards for instances when a violent death occurs. It favors medical examiner investigations of violent deaths of any kind, relaxation of rules preventing public access to notes and other investigative materials compiled by police, and national standards to ensure accountability in law enforcement.

“I am aiding these people because I believe they need to get some peace in their lives, as I need peace too,” Black said.

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