Convicted U.S. child killer owes $15 million to child's mother: lawsuit

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 11, 2014 12:14 PM

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A disbarred attorney convicted of killing his illegally adopted daughter in one of New York's most notorious child abuse cases has not paid any of the $15 million restitution he owes the girl's birth mother, according to a lawsuit.

Joel Steinberg spent 16 years in prison for the 1987 beating death of 6-year-old Lisa, a case that brought national attention to issues of child abuse and the city's child welfare system.

After his release from prison in 2004, a judge ordered Steinberg pay $15 million in wrongful death restitution to Lisa's birth mother, Michele Launders.

In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday, Launders said "no part of the principal of the judgment has been paid or satisfied" in her daughter's death and demanded Steinberg answer the complaint or face default.

It was unclear if a default judgment could send Steinberg back to prison.

Steinberg, 73, lived in a halfway house in Manhattan after his release from prison, but Reuters could not immediately locate his current phone number or address to request comment. It was unclear if he has an attorney.

Dubbed a "monster" by the New York City tabloids, Steinberg was accused of abusing his two illegally adopted children and his girlfriend Hedda Nussbaum.

Nussbaum called 911 in November 1987 and police who responded to their Greenwich Village apartment found Lisa beaten unconscious and a 17-month-old boy tied to a playpen with twine, surrounded by excrement.

Lisa, who had suffered head trauma, died at a hospital four days later.

Steinberg had acted as an attorney to place the girl into adoption but instead took her home without filing official papers. He was convicted of manslaughter.

Nussbaum testified against him and was not charged.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Eric Beech)