May 1, 2012

The victim was 35 years old when she died of a gunshot wound in 1981. Her children were 15, 14 and 12. The three, now in their 40′s, believe their mother’s boyfriend at the time, a former police officer, was responsible for her death, but the criminal justice system disagreed. In 2008, a jury acquitted the boyfriend of second-degree murder. So last year the family turned to the civil courts for justice by filing a wrongful death claim against the boyfriend.

There is no argument that the case is unusual: Seldom is a suspect charged some 25 years after a crime is committed. It is not every day, though, that a woman’s death gets tied up with a political campaign, either. But because the suspect was a friend of the city’s police chief — this was not in Oregon — the city’s failure to charge anyone in the crime turned into a hot issue when the chief ran for sheriff in 2006.

The family was shocked when the boyfriend was acquitted, but the defense had swayed the jury with its argument that the victim had committed suicide. The gun went off as the victim and her boyfriend struggled. No one else was in the room with them. But the family knew this wasn’t the first time the couple had fought, and they continue to believe he was the one who pulled the trigger.

And verdict or no verdict, the family still feels the loss. The victim was a single mother; her children were the pride and joy of her life, according to friends. When she died, her children lost her love and support, and they lost her income. Their best hope of compensation was a civil suit, a wrongful death suit, against their mother’s boyfriend.

To be continued.

Source: Pioneer Press, “Barbara Winn case: Foster had to be aware of suit, lawyer argues,” Richard Chin, May 30, 2012

Categories: Blog