State senator is outraged by killer's claim Boozer seeks to tighten curbs on inheritances

September 04, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Finding it "incredible" that a Baltimore County woman must go to court to disinherit her brother, who killed the siblings' parents, a state senator plans to introduce legislation to stop convicted murderers from inheriting money from the people they kill.

F. Vernon Boozer, a Towson Republican, said the bill is prompted by the case of James G. Finneyfrock, who was convicted two years ago of murdering his parents, Susan and Wade Finneyfrock, and now seeks a $140,838 inheritance.

Boozer, who learned of the case from a Sun article last month, said he finds it "incredible" that Finneyfrock's sister, Patricia Swiger, "is spending thousands of dollars to hire counsel to fight this action that's brought by a convicted murderer."

The senator said he would seek legislation in the next General Assembly session to automatically cut off a convicted murderer from his inheritance -- bypassing the second, civil trial required by the Maryland Court of Appeals' rules of evidence.

Finneyfrock, 33, was convicted of killing his parents in 1993 in their home in Cedar Beach, a rural waterfront community in eastern Baltimore County.

Prosecutors said Finneyfrock turned off the power and killed his parents with a rifle as they entered the dark house, then tried to make it look like a burglary. He is serving a life sentence without parole.

A Baltimore County judge ruled in June that a civil trial is required under Maryland law to disinherit Finneyfrock under Maryland law.

But the judge, John F. Fader II, criticized the law, writing, "[I]t is a waste of judicial time to say that a criminal court verdict of premeditated intentional murder" cannot be used to disinherit a killer.

Finneyfrock's sister has called it "a waste of taxpayers' money" and a waste of her money in legal fees to go through a second trial to keep her brother from getting the inheritance.

Swiger said this week that she will testify in favor of the bill, even though it will be introduced too late to help her. The civil trial for her case is scheduled for January, before a new law could be enacted.

It's also unlikely a new law would affect previous murder convictions, Boozer said.

Said Swiger: "If I can at least help another family not go through what we have gone through, I think I've done a good thing."

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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