A Janesville attorney who wrote a book about a shocking 2005 murder case is being sued for saying the justice system convicted the wrong person.
Roger Merry self-published “Lies for her Master” last year. The book’s first line accuses David Sidoff of murdering Ardelle Sturzenegger of Janesville.
Sturzenegger was an 88-year-old homeless woman from Janesville who was known to carry a large amount of cash. She was shot, and her body was found wrapped in a tarp on a Monticello property rented by a young couple, David and Mary Sidoff.
A jury in 2006 found Mary Sidoff, David’s then-wife, guilty of the murder.
David Sidoff is suing Merry in Rock County Court, saying Merry’s allegations against him are false and made either negligently or with malice, and that the false statements damaged Sidoff. The lawsuit asks for unspecified punitive and actual money damages.
Sidoff told The Gazette the book destroys his character by calling him a murderer, among other offenses. The book has resurrected past conversations with his three teenage children, Sidoff said.
“If you’ve got teenagers, you understand how damaging things like this can be,” Sidoff said.
Sidoff is an information technology consultant, and word of the book’s contents has reached his clients, resulting in “delicate conversations” with them, Sidoff said.
“It took me a lot of years to develop a reputation and name for myself,” Sidoff said. “… Now I have a book out there that in black and white blatantly is calling me a murderer, amongst other things.”
Sidoff said new clients “have slowed to almost nothing, and so it puts a big fear into my ability to provide for my family because of the false claims and accusations that are made.”
The Sidoffs divorced after the trial. David said it was Mary who alerted him about the book.
Mary Sidoff is serving a life sentence but can be considered for release with extended supervision after 45 years.
Mary confessed to detectives in 2005, saying Sturzenegger was holding her 1-year-old son and would not let go, so she went upstairs, got a handgun and pointed it at Sturzenegger.
Sidoff said she thought the gun’s safety was on, but it went off accidentally.
Merry, who represented Mary, is convinced David actually shot Sturzenegger and then convinced his wife that she would not be held accountable if she told a story about protecting her child, the book indicates.
Merry spoke with The Gazette briefly but then declined an interview for this story.
Mary originally confessed to detectives that she killed Sturzenegger, but at trial she said David did it and persuaded her to lie to detectives.
Mary recanted after her conviction in a letter to Green County Court Judge James Beer, in which she said she had lied on the stand and that David had nothing to do with the murder.
Mary Sidoff first encountered Sturzenegger when Sturzenegger was a patient at the psychiatric unit at UW Hospital in Madison, where Mary worked as a certified nursing assistant. It was there that Mary learned patient Sturzenegger carried cash with her, reportedly $55,000 to $60,000.
The Sidoffs were in debt, according to news reports, and after Sturzenegger’s release, Mary tracked Sturzenegger to a Janesville motel, where she persuaded Sturzenegger to stay with her family in Monticello. While there, Mary apparently tried to persuade Sturzenegger to give her a loan.
After the murder, the Sidoffs paid off debts and went on a “spending spree,” according to news reports.
David Sidoff pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, receiving stolen property of $2,500 or less and resisting or obstructing an officer.