Kidnapping doctor pleads illness

Paralyzed on his left side from multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair, former Carson City emergency room doctor Richard Conte asked the Nevada Parole Board on Tuesday to release him from prison for kidnapping and drugging his estranged wife in 2001.

"I'm physically incapable of doing any of the things I did six years ago," he said, noting he was diagnosed in 2000 with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition with attacks the central nervous system. "I'm sure she worries about something like that happening again, but unless there's a threat of me rolling over her toes with the wheelchair, there is no threat."

In his first time before the board, Conte, 58, has served a sentence of 72 months on a charge of administering a drug in the commission of a felony. At the same time he's also served the minimum of 72 months on the charge of kidnapping, making him eligible for parole.

Prior to Conte addressing the board, his victim,m ex-wife Lark Gathright Elliott, Elliott's daughter Ashley Elliott, and brother Richard Gathright, testified against his release. The victim testimony was closed to the public.

On Conte's behalf, his 95-year-old mother flew in for the hearing from Milwaukee. As her son wiped tears from his eyes, she began to read from a statement, but stopped and asked someone else to read it for her.

"I hope this parole board grants a compassionate release for him as well as for me," she wrote. "Richard is my only living child. I beg you for a favorable release."

The one-time Carson-Tahoe Hospital doctor pleaded guilty to kidnapping Lark Gathright-Elliott from Salt Lake City, drugging her, and bringing her back to his home in northern Douglas County on June 21, 2002.

The couple had been married in December 2001, but Gathright-Elliott filed for divorce 90 days later.

On June 19, 2002, Conte drove to Utah, and waited inside his estranged wife's house armed with a handgun and stun gun.

Gathright-Elliott said he forced her to drink a "cocktail" of tranquilizer, cough syrup and vodka. She said she was unconscious for much of the 300-mile trip to Nevada and awoke handcuffed to his bed.

He released her on June 21, 2002, after her daughter called police when she became suspicious of Conte's behavior during a phone call and deputies were arriving at his Clear Creek Road home.

At the time of his arrest, Conte became a suspect in the May 2002 murder of Gathright-Elliott's ex-husband, Carter Elliott, and Carter Elliott's employee Timothy Robertson, in Conway, Ark. When police contacted Conte at his Clear Creek home, they found a map to Carter Elliott's home on Conte's computer. No charges have ever been filed against Conte in the case, and the murders remain unsolved.

The Board said they would forward a recommendation to the full panel and Conte would learn his fate within three weeks.

With the good time behavior he has accrued since his June 2002 incarceration, Conte will expire his sentences in August 2011, said David Smith, Nevada Parole Board spokesman.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment