Dunedin woman, center of infamous 1979 kidnapping, now owes lawyer $12.6M

in Local Courts/Top Headlines by

In 1979, 19-year-old Elizabeth Strother of Dunedin broke into the home of her doctor’s bookkeeper with a friend. At the time, she was high on cocaine and other drugs.

The pair threatened the woman with a toy gun, tying her to a bed while they ransacked the woman’s house. They drove the woman’s car to the doctor’s office, used her keys to enter the office, and filled large trash bags with drugs.

Police arrived and arrested the two.

Strother, now 57, was charged in Pinellas County with kidnapping, burglary, grand theft and use of a firearm during a felony.

The St. Petersburg Times, in articles published between 1987 and 1995, reported that various psychiatrists determined Strother was psychotic and/or a paranoid schizophrenic.

With that diagnosis, Strother was able to avoid prosecution for many years, spending part of that time in a mental institution.

Nevertheless, in 1986, Strother revealed she was faking insanity at the advice of a doctor and two lawyers, including S. Grant Halliday. She announced she would be filing suit against them.

Strother’s allegations resulted in a federal grand jury inquiry and investigation of Halliday and co-counsel Thomas F. “Tom” Granahan II by the Florida Bar.

While her suit was eventually dismissed, Halliday and co-counsel Granahan countersued Strother in 1991 for defamation and harm to their reputations and businesses.

The defamation suit also named Strother’s mother, Frances Strother, and grandmother, Elizabeth Keeley.

In 1997, a jury ordered Strother to pay Halliday damages totaling $4.3-million. Twenty years after that jury order, Halliday is filing a new lawsuit, claiming most or all of the judgment — no exact amount was given — remains unpaid.

In the suit, filed Dec. 27 in Hillsborough County, Halliday argues that, due to interest and subsequent court sanctions, the total is now $12.6-million. Halliday is asking for payment from Strother and/or the estates of her mother and grandmother. Frances Strother died in 2000; Elizabeth Keeley allegedly died in either 1996 or 1997.

Halliday’s court battle with Strother has remained active in the past few years. Documents filed from 2011-13, show Halliday continuing to insist Strother is hiding assets, which Strother denies.

In one 2011 filing, Strother claims she has not held a job since 1998, and did not file state or Federal income-tax returns from 1993-2010, did not own or lease a vehicle, have a safe-deposit, nor owned any stocks or bonds.

Responding to requests from the two lawyers, Strother denied ever applying for a U.S. passport under a false name, holding stock in a Mexican bank, or traveling to Texas for a financial transaction.

Strother did admit to using a false name — “Ellie Golder” — more than 20 years ago. In 2016, Strother was sanctioned by the court after leaving a deposition prematurely.

Although the St. Petersburg Times described Strother in 1987 as the product of an “affluent Dunedin family,” she currently lives in her late mother’s home in Dunedin, which was appraised at $123,000.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.