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Admitted accomplice to Florida murder ordered to pay $44 million

Over ten years after the brutal murder of a 21-year-old Miami Beach woman, the victim’s family has been awarded $44 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against a 40-year-old Florida woman who admitted her participation in the crime. The victim’s husband has been charged with killing his new wife in October 2002.

The resolution of the murder case has been slow in coming. Police lacked the evidence to charge the woman’s husband until 2005. He is facing first-degree murder charges, but has not yet gone to trial.

Law enforcement, however, was unable to build a case against the woman they believed to be his accomplice. She told them of her role in the killing only after prosecutors gave her immunity in exchange for providing details about the murder. She was found liable in the wrongful death case last year by a Florida-Dade judge, but the responsibility of awarding of damages was given to a jury.

According to the woman’s confession, the two murdered the victim to collect her $1 million life insurance policy. She said the two planned to kill the man’s wife, get her insurance, and marry. The victim’s body, beaten and strangled, was discovered in a warehouse parking lot near Florida Springs in October 2002. According to the woman, the husband slipped his wife Percocet to tranquilize her. Police believe the victim’s husband beat her to death with a tire iron. The woman says that she helped the man plan his wife’s murder and dispose of the murder weapon.

After the jury’s decision about damages, the victim’s mother said that the family, which had filed the wrongful death suit several years ago, thought the verdict was important. Nonetheless, the family does not believe the woman, whose wages will be garnished to pay the damages, should have been given immunity from prosecution for her participation in the murder.

Prosecutors often offer immunity to people with knowledge of or participation in crimes to get needed evidence against the primary culprit. That leaves families with no other recourse against those people who share culpability in their loved one’s harm or death but to hold them responsible in civil court.

Source: The Florida Herald, “Family of murdered Miami Beach woman gets $44 million judgment in lawsuit” David Ovalle, Sep. 04, 2013

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