OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - The family of a Washington state man who killed himself and his two young sons in a fiery explosion in 2012 is entitled to a share of a life insurance payout from the boys’ deaths, a federal judge has ruled.
The ruling came over the objections of the family of Josh Powell’s wife, Susan Powell, who has been missing since 2009 with her husband the prime suspect in her disappearance and possible death, Anne Bremner, an attorney for Susan Powell’s parents, said on Tuesday.
Powell killed himself and his sons in February 2012, by chopping at the boys, 7-year-old Charles and 5-year-old Braden, with a hatchet before blowing up the family house in Graham, Washington.
Charles and Judy Cox, parents of Susan Powell, argued that Josh Powell’s family was not entitled to half of the more than $520,000 to be paid out for the boys’ deaths because it was Powell who killed them.
But U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton, in a ruling last week, awarded nearly $800,000 in life insurance proceeds to the Powell family, including half of the $520,000 life insurance rider for his sons. The remainder of the money came from a policy on Josh Powell’s own life.
The judge wrote in his decision that the beneficiaries were entitled to a share of the money for the boys because they were not the killers.
Still at issue and pending in a Utah court is the fate of about $2.5 million in life insurance money tied to Susan Powell, who will be presumed dead under Utah law in December, five years after her disappearance.
The Coxes say the trust should be dissolved and the money should go to her family, while the Powells say the cash should be split evenly between the two families.
Josh Powell’s father, Steven Powell, has disclaimed his rights to any insurance proceeds, his attorney said on Tuesday. He has a $2 million judgment against him stemming from a separate voyeurism case, and Bremner, who also represents Steven Powell’s victims, says he will have to use his roughly $370,000 share of the insurance proceeds to pay that down.
The other Powell beneficiaries are Josh’s mother and two surviving siblings. Josh Powell’s primary beneficiary, younger brother Michael Powell, committed suicide last year.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills