Not Too Late to Sue Accused Missouri Killers

     (CN) – A man charged with his wife’s murder years after her death cannot use the statute of limitations to avert civil claims from her family, Missouri’s highest court ruled.
     Belinda Beisly was found shot to death in her home, a ranch outside Deerfield, Mo., in July 2009.
     Prosecutors charged the husband, Bob T. Beisly II, and his farm hand, Jeremy Maples, with her murder in February 2013.
     Maples has pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed Belinda in exchange for Beisly’s promise of $10,000 because she was planning to seek a divorce.
     Belinda’s mother, Wilma Jean Irwin, sued Beisly and Maples for wrongful death in Vernon County Circuit Court five days after the men were charged.
     The complaint alleges that the men concealed their involvement in the crime by staging it to look like a home invasion, destroying evidence, using an untraceable weapon, lying to law enforcement and denying their involvement in the crime.
     Beisly moved to dismiss the lawsuit as time-barred, but Irwin argued that she didn’t know who committed the crime during the three-year time period because the defendants had concealed their involvement.
     The circuit court agreed, ruling that allowing the defendants to escape liability because of their own concealment would be “shocking to the conscience.”
     Hearing an appeal of the decision en banc, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed 4-3 on Aug. 18. An eighth member of the court did not participate.
     Beisly’s interpretation of the wrongful death statute of limitations “seeks to reward fraudulent concealment, the destruction of evidence and the very act of murder,” Judge George W. Draper II wrote for the majority.
     Judge Mary Russell wrote in dissent that the wrongful-death statute does not contain an exception for fraudulent concealment.
     “This court is bound to consider these intentional legislative choices and refrain from judicially amending (the law) even when, as here, the result is severe for the plaintiff,” she wrote. “It is the job of the Legislature, not this court, to address exceptions to a special statute of limitations.”
     Judge Zel Fischer agreed with Russell in a separate dissent. He said the court issued a conflicting opinion in another wrongful death lawsuit (Boland v. St. Luke’s Health System) on the same day.
     “In my view, there is no practical or legitimate reason to issue an opinion in Beisly which is in conflict with Boland on the same day and that required a special judge to garner a majority,” Fischer wrote.
     Fischer and Judge Paul Wilson joined Russell’s dissent.
     The Joplin Globe reported that prosecutors dropped the first-degree murder charge against Beisly in March. Nevada Daily Mail reported that Maples trial was scheduled to begin about a month ago.

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