TACOMA, WA -- A case in which a man killed his wife and may be rewarded with her state pension benefits is prompting Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and lawmakers to seek a fix to state law.
Senate Bill 6091, requested by Prosecutor Lindquist and introduced by State Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, prevents slayers from profiting when they are found not guilty by reason of insanity.
"A killer shouldn't benefit from his crime," said Prosecutor Lindquist. "I've spoken to Carol's sister, Cheryl, and we are going to fix this for her and for the future.”
Under current state law, killer Robert Selland, now under treatment at Western State Hospital, is entitled to $17,000 in pension benefits earned by his late wife Carol. Selland stabbed his wife to death in 2011 but was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
State law bars slayers and abusers from inheriting property, collecting benefits or otherwise profiting from their deeds. But Mr. Selland was never found guilty, and the law doesn’t apply to him. Mrs. Selland’s family was informed by the state Department of Retirement Systems that Mr. Selland was therefore entitled to collect the full pension she had earned as a family educator for Pierce County’s Community Connections Department.
Prosecutor Lindquist, whose office prosecuted the Selland case, has asked the Department of Retirement Systems not to disburse the late Mrs. Selland’s pension to her husband, but the state agency has not yet responded. There is no impediment to the disbursement of Mrs. Selland’s pension before Mr. Selland is released from Western State Hospital.
The measure changes the definition of “slayer” to include those who are judged insane. Dammeier said lawmakers are working on additional language to ensure the law can be applied retroactively. At this point deadlines have passed for the consideration of new non-budget bills, but Dammeier said he hopes to find a way to revive it either this session or next.
“It is unconscionable that someone involved in the murder of a loved one would benefit financially from that crime,” Dammeier said. “In most cases state law would prevent that. But in this case, we have someone found not guilty by reason of insanity, and the law overlooked that possibility. This bill corrects that problem.
Communications and Public Information Coordinator
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office