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Colorado murder victim's family can still file for wrongful death

Patricia M. Jarzobski

There are times when the family of a murder victim feel they have no control over the fate of the murderer. That is the case for the family of an Edwards, Colorado, woman. The woman's murderer has accepted a plea deal for second-degree murder and burglary, which would make it possible for him to be paroled after serving 51 years of his 68 year sentence. Her family feels this punishment is completely inadequate and fought to have the deal declined by prosecutors; however, they lost their argument, and the plea deal was accepted. Although the victim's family was not able to see man go through a criminal murder trial, they can still file a wrongful death suit and have him stand trial in civil court.

The events leading up to this murder began when a Pennsylvania couple decided to make an impromptu move to Colorado. They drove toward the mountains and decided they would live off the land. When that didn't go as planned, the couple decided to break into someone's house for food and shelter. They chose the house of a 74-year-old woman.

The couple spent the night in the woman's house undetected and made themselves at home when she left the next morning. Upon her return, the couple decided to reveal their presence to her. Amazingly, the elderly woman talked with them and even offered to cook for them. Her kindness was met with malice, and the couple brutally murdered the woman. Even more disturbing, the murderers remained in the home, where they cooked and even washed laundry before finally leaving.

The victim's family felt that 51 years of prison were not enough for the couple's bone-chilling disregard for life and the malicious nature of their crimes. They sought a sentence that wouldn't allow the duo to ever be outside prison walls, but prosecutors felt the plea deal was in the best interest of the community and others. The family now has the opportunity to file a wrongful death suit in civil court. A successfully litigated wrongful death suit can award the victim's family financial compensation that can go toward end-of-life expenses such as funeral and burial costs.

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