‘Slayer statute’ in place to help secure family possessions


As a law enforcement officer, Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) was the third person on the scene of a friend’s murder in August 2010. Twenty-four hours later, the victim’s wife pleaded guilty to her husband’s death.

The victim’s family tried to recover mementos and personal property, both theirs and his, from the house. Current law states, however, that until there is a guilty verdict or other court finding, the property is sealed.

Sponsored by Cornish, HF161, would amend the state’s so-called “slayer statute,” which is in place to prevent a killer from benefiting, through inheritance, from the victim’s death. The House passed the bill 128-0 Monday. It now moves to the Senate where Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen(R-Alexandria) is the sponsor.

According to the nonpartisan House Research Department, the bill would allow a personal representative to file with the court an inventory of the decedent’s personal property that may be affected by the so-called “slayer statute.” This list may serve as documentation for later claims. Additionally, the bill would authorize the court to order certain relief regarding the property, such as reserving determinate of its distribution, holding it in trust or prohibiting its disposition pending a final determination under the statute. It would also provide a notice of the rights to crime victims.

During committee testimony earlier this session, Leslie Nibbe Johnson, the sister of the victim referenced by Cornish, said that, at the arraignment hearing, the family asked the wife’s father if they could have some of the decedent‘s personal property.  However, he told them they would need to produce receipts, to prove it was another family member’s property.

After the wife was convicted, the family was able to retrieve some of the personal property, Johnson said. “It was too heart-wrenching for my family to continue to go through the process, and it was expensive, and we ended up walking away from the situation by signing an agreement.”