Seventh Circuit: Murder victim's insurance money goes to man claiming to be his son, not sister

By Andrew Thomason | Nov 21, 2014


The son of a murder victim is entitled to the victim's life insurance payout instead of the victim's sister, a federal appeals panel held this month.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling upholds the district court's refusal to disinherit Quincy Jones because Angela Ashford claimed her brother, Lenord Jones, only claimed Quincy as his son to hide his homosexuality.

Lenord was killed in Harvey and had no will at the time of his 2011 murder, which remains unsolved, according to the panel's opinion. Lenord, through his employer, had a life insurance policy worth more than $300,000, which was to be paid out first to a surviving spouse, and then to any surviving children, parents, and lastly his estate.

Following Lenord's death, Quincy submitted a claim to Minnesota Life Insurance Co., which held Lenord’s policy, claiming to be his child. After Quincy filed his claim, Annie Moore filed a similar claim, saying she was Lenord’s daughter.

Minnesota Life Insurance paid $24,000 for Lenord’s funeral expenses and $137,000 to Quincy based on his claim of being Lenord’s son. It handed the rest of the money, along with the dispute between Moore and Quincy, over to Chicago’s federal court.

In the meantime, Angela Ashford, Lenord’s biological sister, filed a claim stating she was the sole person entitled to her brother's life insurance money. She claimed she controlled Lenord’s estate as his only surviving blood relative and that he did not have biological children because he was gay.

She, according to the panel's ruling, “contended that Lenord had been homosexual, had never had children but had pretended to in order to conceal his homosexuality, and had actually told her that neither Quincy nor Annie was his biological child."

Ashford included an affidavit from a man who claimed to have seen Lenord engage in homosexual acts and submitted copies of her brother's income tax returns, in which he did not always claim Quincy as a dependent.

Moore was precluded from any inheritance after she submitted to a DNA test following Ashford’s actions, and it was determined she was not Lenord’s daughter.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve determined Quincy was entitled to the rest of Leonard's life insurance money based on a parentage order Lenord had signed in 1996 stating that Quincy was his son.

Ashford, however, argued that St. Eve should have made Quincy to take a DNA test to prove his blood relation to Lenord.

In its Nov.5 opinion, the Seventh Circuit panel --Judges Richard Posner, Ilana Diamond Rovner and Ann Claire Williams -- points out that in some cases district courts can compel people to take a DNA test to prove paternity and that it would have been a quick, non-invasive and relatively easy way to settle the argument between Ashford and Quincy.

But Posner explained for the panel that Illinois law assumes a man is the natural father of a child if he and the child’s mom have signed an acknowledgement of paternity.

Furthermore, the panel said law holds that before a court can compel a DNA test in a case like this, it has to be shown “persuasive and credible evidence” that the test would result in disinheritance and Ashford provided no such evidence.

“Homosexual men can of course father children … and so far as appears our Lenord may have been bisexual— or indeed 100 percent heterosexual. Angela made no effort, so far as we can tell, to obtain evidence from Quincy’s mother—a suspicious omission,” Posner wrote.

He explained that Ashford’s weak evidence, in addition to Lenord’s order of parentage regarding Quincy, led the appeals panel to affirm the lower court’s ruling.

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