(CN) – An Arizona woman cannot collect life insurance for her husband’s death, because she was suspected of being involved in his murder, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled.
Adolfo Suarez was shot to death in his home in 2004. His wife, Luz Ballesteros-Suarez, was the beneficiary of his life insurance policies.
Though she was not convicted of killing her husband, the trial court found evidence to determine that she was responsible for his death.
The decedent’s sister, Cruz Antonia Suarez Castro, sued to bar Luz from collecting the insurance benefits. At one point, Luz offered Castro money to not stand in the way of her collecting the benefits.
Luz and her son, Miguel, would not testify at the civil trial and invoked their Fifth Amendment rights.
The trial court also determined that the decedent’s signature on an insurance policy was forged. Suarez was illiterate and could only print his name. Also, his first name was misspelled as “Aldolfo.”
Judge Portley agreed with the trial court that there was enough evidence to trigger the slayer statute and bar Suarez’s recovery of funds.
“Although there was no direct evidence that Mrs. Suarez killed her husband,” Portley wrote, “there was circumstantial evidence that she was responsible for his death; namely, the forged change of the beneficiary form, and Mrs. Suarez’s attempt to convince Ms. Castro not to challenge her efforts to recover the insurance proceeds.”
Portley also wrote that probable cause to arrest is not needed to trigger the slayer statute; a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient.
The appeals court also rejected Suarez’s argument that she was entitled to the insurance proceeds because the premiums were paid out of shared marital funds.
“It is clear that Mrs. Suarez did not have any community interest in the insurance proceeds before her husband was murdered,” the judge wrote, “and had he lived, there would be nothing to collect.”