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New Legislation to Prevent Accused or Convicted Murderers from Profiting from Killing Their Spouses

Representative Joseph C. Sullivan Sponsors Legislation – House 5136 – to Combat Domestic Violence

Boston, MA (July 22, 2002) In most states, killers who are convicted for the deaths of their spouses can profit from the murder. Even if convicted of the crime, the murderers are legally entitled to the assets of the marriage, including property, monies, children's trust funds, 401(k)s, and insurance policies. Convicted murderers don't even lose parental rights, even if they killed their spouse in front of the children.

To prevent victim's families from being victimized a second time, Representative Joseph C. Sullivan, a Democratic State legislator from Braintree, Massachusetts, has filed legislation to advance the rights of the families of victims of domestic violence. House 5136 would protect the rights of victim's families by addressing existing flaws in the Massachusetts probate code as it applies to cases of domestic violence homicides and inheritance of property and assets.

"This is a national issue, but over the past year Massachusetts has seen a number of cases in which a spouse has been murdered and the murderers have exploited their rights to the estate and to parental custody," said Rep. Sullivan. "Whether the murderer has been charged or after being convicted of killing their spouse, our bill is designed to protect the families, protect children's assets so that monies intended for them are not used by accused murderers to pay for their defense counsel, which happened last year, and so that the children's fates are not decided by a father who killed their mother."

Rep. Sullivan has been working on this legislation for several years, after one of his constituents, Denise Gordon, pointed out the problem facing victim's families. Gordon's sister, Patricia Aquino, was stabbed to death in front of their toddler son by her estranged husband, Robert, nine years ago, on Aug. 1, 1993.

"I hope that this legislation will be signed into law by the ninth anniversary of my sister's death so that her death will have had some positive meaning," said Denise Gordon. "Too many families have suffered the way I have, the way my poor nephew had to witness this brutal event and lives with the memory of this everyday. In too many cases, like in my sister's, the murderer can deny the victim's family the right to bury their loved one as well as to the victim's marital assets and custody of the children."

According to Ms. Gordon, because domestic violence murders are so sudden, the victim's families usually do not have the funds or the attorneys to sue the killers in Probate Courts to get access to the victim's body, estate and custody.

"Under this law, victims' families would no longer face the additional burden of having to go to court to get control of the body for burial and access to the marital assets from the murderer," Ms. Gordon said. "Even though he was convicted and in jail, we had to fight my sister's killer in court over custody rights of my sister's two children. It's about time that a person convicted of murdering their spouse should no longer be entitled to the marital assets."

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