Couple's assets are frozen

Husband charged in death of their 2 young daughters

August 03, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Attorneys for a Columbia banker accused of killing his two preschool-age daughters and for his estranged wife agreed yesterday to freeze the couple's assets and to delay proceedings in their divorce case temporarily.

The agreement between lawyers for Robert Emmett Filippi and Naoko Nakajima also calls for the sale of the couple's Harmel Drive house, which is valued at $325,700 and is mortgaged. The proceeds, which will be placed in an escrow account, and other "marital assets" will be frozen until the two sides can agree on how to divide them, the lawyers said.

Because state psychiatrists recently found Filippi incompetent to assist in his defense, a friend will have power of attorney to oversee the sale of the house on his behalf, the lawyers said.

The agreement, which was detailed during a brief hearing before Judge Diane O. Leasure in Howard Circuit Court yesterday, comes nearly two months after Filippi, 44, was arrested on first-degree murder charges in the strangulation deaths of his daughters, Nicole, 4, and Lindsey, 2.

A week after the killings, Nakajima, who was in the midst of a divorce and custody dispute with her estranged husband, filed a motion to freeze the couple's assets, saying their money and property should not be used to pay for his criminal defense.

Yesterday, Nakajima's lawyer, William G. Salmond, said he plans to make certain that the freeze stays in place until both sides figure out how the assets should be divided. The freeze is necessary, he said, to protect Nakajima's interests.

"We'll chase this forever," he said after the hearing. "I'll not see a penny of the marital assets depleted in support of a criminal defense. It's fundamentally not right."

And by delaying the proceedings for two months - the case is scheduled for a status conference Oct. 8 - the lawyers are acknowledging Filippi's uncertain mental state.

The competency ruling in the criminal case also calls into question any decision Filippi might make in the divorce case, said his lawyer, James B. Kraft.

"If he were to sign something ... there could be very serious questions about its validity," Kraft said.

Filippi, who was indicted by a Howard grand jury in the case this week, is being held at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup.

Investigators called to the Harmel Drive house June 9 found the girls in an upstairs bed with rope around their necks and a piece of wood believed to have been used to tighten the ropes near their bodies. Filippi was sitting at the kitchen table and had rope marks on his neck and small hemorrhages all over his head - signs that he had attempted to hang himself, a prosecutor said at a hearing in June.

Salmond said yesterday that preserving Nakajima's share will help to ease her "transition" in the United States. Nakajima, who is from Japan and who neighbors have said speaks limited English, is taking an English proficiency class, he said.

"I think the last 60 days have been very horrific," he said. "She's being strong in a very difficult time."

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