Suspects found insane couldn't profit from murder under bill

AP News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2016 4:51 PM
Suspects found insane couldn't profit from murder under bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Lawmakers in Connecticut are again trying to bar people charged with murder or manslaughter but found not guilty by reason of insanity from benefiting from the victims' deaths, including inheriting their assets and reaping life insurance windfalls.

The legislature's Judiciary Committee is considering a bill prompted by the case of David Messenger, who was acquitted by reason of insanity of fatally bludgeoning his pregnant wife, Heather, in front of their 5-year-old son at their Chaplin home in 1998.

John Klar, a lawyer who has represented Heather Messenger's family, said he believes David Messenger has more than $2 million in assets, including proceeds from his wife's life insurance policy and a $424,000 settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit involving the couple's homeowners insurance filed by Heather Messenger's estate. Klar said David Messenger inherited money from his wife's estate because he was acquitted and remained her beneficiary.

"Because of a loophole in Connecticut law, that money would have gone straight to David Messenger," Klar said.

Michael Devlin, an attorney for David Messenger, said Friday that the $2 million figure is inaccurate. He declined to elaborate and declined to comment on the bill, which has failed in the legislature several times since 2005.

David Messenger spent more than a decade in a secure psychiatric hospital after he was acquitted. Last year, the state Psychiatric Security Review Board approved releasing him full time into the community, with supervision. He now lives at a mental health treatment center in Hartford, where he is free to come and go during the day but has a curfew at night and cannot leave Hartford County.

The Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill Monday.

Hannah Williamson, Heather Messenger's sister, said it is "disgusting" that David Messenger inherited her assets.

"I just don't get it. The state certainly failed us," she said.

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This story has been corrected to show that a lawyer for Heather Messenger's family believes David Messenger has more than $2 million in assets, not that David Messenger received $2 million from his wife's estate.