Executor asks court to help divide estate of woman killed by a son

By Cara Bailey | Apr 3, 2007

CHARLESTON - The executor of the estate of a woman murdered by her mentally ill son has asked the court to help him decide who gets her estate.

Robert Neal was appointed by administrator of the estate of Bonnie O'Neal, whose son Richard was charged with first-degree murder of his mother. Bonnie O'Neal was not married and the heirs of her estate are her three sons, including Richard O'Neal.

In a suit filed March 20 in Kanawha Circuit Court by attorney Robert Sayre, Neal asks for a declaration directing his actions concerning how to distribute the estate. According to a West Virginia Code known as the "slayers statute," no person convicted of killing another person can profit or inherit from the person by virtue of their wrongful act.

While the slayers statute applies ostensibly when there is an actual felony conviction in connection with the wrongful act, the public policy of West Virginia prohibits O'Neal from profiting from his wrongful act, the suit says.

Therefore, Richard O'Neal, who entered a guilty plea by reason of mental illness in the murder of his mother, is not eligible to receive his one-third of the estate.

A hearing was held on Sept. 1, 2006, The State of West Virginia v. Richard O'Neal, 05-F-365. At that hearing, O'Neal was allowed to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of mental illness of the crime of murder in the second degree of his mother, Bonnie O'Neal, the suit says.

The court ordered O'Neal to be committed to a state mental health facility for a period of up to 40 years or until further order of the Court. O'Neal is now a patient at the William R. Sharpe Hospital near Weston in Lewis County, the suit says.

Neal seeks a declaration directing his actions as to how to distribute Bonnie O'Neal's estate.

As a result of her death, her other sons who were not implicated in her death have suffered damages as a result of the actions of their brother.

Neal seeks an order in his favor against the Richard O'Neal for compensatory damages in such sum as would compensate the heirs of Bonnie O'Neal, for punitive damages and such relief as the court may deem appropriate.

The case has been assigned to Judge James Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-498

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