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Die Hard

Rose Johnson

Celia "CeCe" Margaret Doane is best known for her 1971 Miss Arizona title and the Rolls-Royce she drives around Paradise Valley, but the town's police also know her for her frequent calls -- sometimes to 911, often to Police Chief John Wintersteen on his cell phone or at home.

When a housekeeper for Celia Doane called Wintersteen last September and told him Doane had tried to hire her to kill James Doane, Celia's husband, Wintersteen took note.

"Knowing what I do about the Doan's [sic] marital situation, I immediately recognized that Mrs. Doan had a motive," Wintersteen wrote in a November 10 dispatch included in the latest Paradise Valley police report on the Doanes. A stack of several reports dating back to the early '90s details domestic squabbles at the Doanes' residence. It's noted often in the reports that Celia apparently had been drinking. There are allegations in the reports of violent behavior on the part of both Celia and James.

This latest, lengthy report details Celia Doane's alleged plot and her supposed murder weapon of choice: Viagra.

If the report is accurate, Celia Doane spent days planning how to overdose her husband -- who has a bad heart -- with a drug she knew could kill him.

And now one of Celia's ex-husbands has told police she tried to have him murdered, too.

James Doane refused to comment on the Viagra case, or any other aspect of the couple's relationship or pending legal issues.

"It would probably be better if I didn't [speak] at this time. That's an ongoing police investigation," James told New Times last week. ". . . If you've had access to the public records, then you've really got the story. I don't think that there's anything more that I can add."

Celia Doane is out of town seeking "therapy," according to her mother, Lillian Sklan. "My God, that's ridiculous," she says when asked about the Viagra case.

Celia's attorney, Larry Debus, calls the Paradise Valley police investigation "incomplete," adding, "We're conducting our own investigation."

Paradise Valley police provided New Times with a copy of the report, but refused to comment further and would not offer access to transcripts of phone calls and other conversations taped by police and witnesses in which Doane allegedly admits to the plot. The tapes are mentioned in the report; Paradise Valley police Lieutenant Ron Warner -- who serves as the department's spokesman and also took part in the Doane investigation -- says he was not allowed to give New Times transcripts. The police department also blacked out some names, including the name of its key witness, who has agreed to testify in court if necessary, according to the report. For the purposes of this story, we'll call her Mary. The following is based on Mary's account to police.

On September 19, Celia Doane had lunch with Mary at Houston's restaurant in Scottsdale. Doane told Mary she was looking for some Viagra.

From the police report: "Celia related that her husband Jim has a prostrate [sic] problem and would like to try the Viagra to see if they would help.

"Celia was insistent on getting the Viagra as soon as possible because they were going to Sedona for the weekend to try and save their marriage and Celia wanted to have the Viagra to use for the weekend. [Mary] told Celia that she could get a prescription from her [Doane's] doctor and order the Viagra over the Internet."

Doane persisted, until Mary agreed to try to get some Viagra from her own husband's supply.

The next morning, Mary came to Doane's home and gave her eight Viagra pills wrapped in tissue. Doane put them in her purse, then asked Mary about the dosage. She was told James should take one at a time and no more than two within a four-hour period.

And Mary had a warning for Doane: Don't give the Viagra to James if he has a heart condition, she told her. It could kill him. Doane assured Mary that James had no such troubles.

A day later, the report continues, Doane told Mary she wanted to use the Viagra to kill James. She asked how many it would take to kill him. She asked Mary to come to the Doanes' Sedona home and put the Viagra in James' coffee -- two pills in each cup he drank. Doane offered Mary a house in Scottsdale in exchange.

Mary tried to talk Doane out of it, and looked for the Viagra she had given Celia -- unsuccessfully. In the following days, Mary told police, Doane continued to speak of killing James and also of planting cocaine in a vehicle often driven by a business associate of James', and of having the associate killed.

 

Mary called the police chief on September 27.

When the police contacted James Doane two days later -- advising him to cease contact with his wife -- he confirmed that his wife had been pressuring him to go to Sedona with her. He confirmed that he has prostate problems. But Doane also told police that, contrary to what Celia had allegedly told Mary, he has a serious heart condition -- of which Celia is well aware. James had heart bypass surgery several years ago and had a negative reaction to Viagra in the past.

James also told police that Celia had recently begun asking him repeatedly about his estate, and what would happen to it if he died. He explained that if he died, she would get everything, and that if the two divorced she would get nothing, because of a post-nuptial agreement.

Throughout this time described in the November police report, Celia continued to phone the PV police. On one occasion, she told Chief Wintersteen she didn't want to kill James -- prompting police to wonder if she was trying to establish an alibi. More than once, she told police Mary was a "Hells Angel girl" trying to blackmail her.

James Doane subsequently moved out of the house. Celia went to The Meadows in Wickenburg, a residential treatment center for substance abuse, according to paperwork in a civil lawsuit she's filed against James. She claims physical and mental abuse. He has filed his own civil suit alleging that she tried to have him killed and that she set fire to their home. In addition, the Doanes have filed for divorce.

The Paradise Valley Police Department referred several potential charges against Celia Doane, including "solicitation to commit murder" and "conspiracy to commit murder," to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. County Attorney spokesman Bill FitzGerald acknowledges that the charges are under investigation.


Celia Doane, who is now in her early 50s, was married several times before she wed James Doane in 1992. Two of her previous husbands were in law enforcement. Steve Twist, the first, served as first assistant attorney general under Arizona Attorney General Bob Corbin, and ran unsuccessfully for attorney general himself in 1990. And before James Doane, there was Chuck Leidner, a onetime district attorney in Aspen, Colorado, who earlier, as a public defender, once represented serial killer Ted Bundy.

James Kenneth Doane's background is in real estate and business. In his mid-60s, he lists his occupation as "retired." Doane's late father, James M. Doane, was a Hollywood agent whose clients included Agnes Moorehead (Endora on Bewitched), Irene Ryan (Granny Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies) and the legendary Lionel Barrymore. James K. is an expert on the life and art of Barrymore. One of his prized possessions is a box of gold plates Barrymore used to make prints.

Celia and James settled in Paradise Valley and became active in several charities, recalls Danny Medina, the colorful gossip columnist who catalogues the activities of PV and Scottsdale socialites in his monthly newspaper Trends.

Less than two years after the Doanes were married, they were the victims of a high-profile home invasion. Celia and James were bound with their heads covered, and the robbers stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in possessions, including Celia's 9.37 carat, $74,000 diamond ring and James' $44,000 Patek Philippe watch. The crime remains unsolved.

The case was a favorite of the national media -- everyone from Penthouse to 20/20 wanted to describe the gruesome details, in which Celia and James were taken into separate rooms and -- upon hearing a gun fire -- were told the other had been killed.

In 1994, not long after the home invasion, the Doane home was featured in a lengthy style article in the Arizona Republic, which described the 2,800 square feet of marble floors, the refrigerated three-car garage and James' collection of Hollywood memorabilia from his father, including a silver cigar humidor from Clark Gable and, according to James, the only portrait John Barrymore ever sat for. The Doanes' art collection included a bust sculpted by a student of Michelangelo.


In recent years, the Doanes have slipped from the social scene, Danny Medina says. Celia and Medina were never close, the columnist acknowledges, but he's kept tabs on her, noting her strange behavior in his column -- including the time she showed up at the tony Heart Ball with what appeared to be a bodyguard. Over the years, Medina started seeing Doane less and less at charity functions, he says, and heard she was frequenting nightclubs and bars instead. In her early 50s, the former beauty queen is still beautiful, Medina acknowledges, but was out of place amid the younger set who do the Scottsdale bar scene. "We used to call her the Resident Granny," he says.

 

Public records indicate that the Doane marriage was troubled almost from the start. In 1994, police arrested both Celia and James in a domestic violence dispute, in which James admitted to police that he had struck Celia. In 1996, the couple filed for divorce, but ultimately withdrew the petition and a post-nuptial agreement was signed, allowing that Celia would get nothing if they divorced.

The police reports slowed until last fall, when the alleged Viagra murder plot arose, quickly followed by several other incidents in October, according to reports: Celia allegedly stole James' gold Barrymore plates, was arrested for punching her grown daughter in the stomach and, according to James, set fire to their opulent home.

Celia Doane allegedly approached Mary about the Viagra in late September, and by the end of the month, James had been warned by police.

According to the police report, James told Celia in early October that he wanted to retrieve his plates (which he values at $150,000) and other personal items from the house. She told him the plates had been stolen. Celia called Paradise Valley Police Chief Wintersteen on October 13 to tell him she believed a Swedish friend who stayed at her home had taken them.

But in the report, a witness whose name is blacked out tells police Celia asked the witness to bring the plates to Celia's mother's home in Scottsdale for safekeeping. Police retrieved the plates and saved them as evidence.

Early on October 14, Rural/Metro firefighters responded to a fire at the Doane residence. The fire had apparently started in the garage; when firefighters arrived, Celia was trying to catch her pets and said she had no idea how the fire had started.

In a signed statement to police, James recounts a phone call he received from Celia at 4 a.m. October 14: "[She] telephoned to tell me, 'I've set the house on fire.' I didn't believe her and told her she should go to bed. . . . I said, 'Good night, Cece' and hung up. At around 7:00 AM, her youngest daughter, Sarah, called and said, 'You need to come up here. Mother has burned up the garages.' Upon my arrival, I was quite saddened to see that almost all of my family's photographs, mementos, and papers were burned. I entered the house in tears and was met by Cece's mother who told me, 'Cece just started a little fire, only a few things were burned. They're just things anyway. No one was hurt.' Cece was sitting on the sofa displaying the demeanor of a drunk. I was so emotionally assaulted, I told her mother to shut up and I left . . ."

Damage was contained mainly to the garage.

Later that day, Paradise Valley police were called to the house, arrested Celia and booked her at Madison Street Jail after she allegedly punched 21-year-old Sarah Leidner in the stomach, after her daughter tried to take a glass of wine away from her. On the way to jail, Celia tried to bribe police to expedite her booking, according to the police report. No charges have been filed.


Days after the fire, Paradise Valley police contacted Chuck Leidner, Celia Doane's ex-husband. Leidner declined an interview request from New Times, but spoke to police. According to Leidner's account, described in the report, "In October of 1987, Celia had hired a known convicted murderer . . . to kill Leidner for the sum of $10,000."

Because the event happened so long ago, the Arapahoe County Sheriff in Colorado had no record of Leidner reporting this information, the PV police wrote.

"Leidner also related that Celia had taken some of his clothes and personal pictures of his family and burned them in the fireplace while he was at work."

There is no police report on that incident, either.

The similarities are remarkable, particularly in the descriptions of the fires set to personal belongings. Again, Celia Doane could not be reached for comment, as she is out of town getting "therapy," as her mother, Lillian Sklan, explains.

Celia's opinions about James are obvious in a civil lawsuit she filed against her current husband November 3. In it, she accuses him of physical and verbal abuse, and of encouraging her to drink when he knew she was an alcoholic.

From the complaint: "All his conduct was designed to cause her to lose her self-esteem, to be unable to function and become a virtual chattle [sic] of James Kenneth Doane."

Sklan echoes those sentiments.

"My daughter has spent nine years with this man almost drinking herself to death," she says. ". . . This man has tried to kill my daughter."

 

Contact the author at her online address: amy.silverman@newtimes.com


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