Wife convicted in death could still inherit estate
STAMFORD, Conn. - Authorities say a 59-year-old Norwalk woman convicted of manslaughter last month in her husband's death could still inherit his $1.2 million estate.
Mary Ann Langley's lawyers and supporters say the jury's failure to convict her of murder preserves her claim to 55-year-old James Langley's estate.
James Langley died in December 2006 of burns after gasoline on his clothes caught on fire.
Prosecutors say Mary Ann Langley threw gasoline on him and lit a match in revenge for his alleged infidelity.
Her lawyer and supporters believe James Langley accidentally caused the fire during a daze brought on by his unregulated diabetes.
State law prohibits only convicted murderers from inheriting from their victims, not those convicted of manslaughter.
Mary Ann Langley is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 19 but is seeking a new trial, saying jurors ignored gaps in the prosecution's case.
The question of who inherits James Langley's estate has caused more strife in a family torn apart over the circumstances of his death.
"I don't think it is right. If you kill someone, why should you profit?" said Willie Langley, James's brother and executor of his estate.
"I think if you pour gasoline on someone, you meant to kill them anyway, but [the prosecution] couldn't prove that," he said.
Known as a "slayer statute," the law in Connecticut and in 42 other states prohibits murderers from inheriting from their victims' estates, according to a state Office of Legislative Research report.
State law says that when a defendant is convicted of killing another person without a murder conviction, such as in the case of Langley's manslaughter conviction, inheritance rights are determined under common law.
Stephen Seeger, Mary Ann Langley's defense and probate lawyer, said the case may depend on whether anyone can prove she killed for the purpose of getting benefits.
"Under the statutory scheme in place in Connecticut, it is clear that Mrs. Langley can inherit," Seeger wrote in an e-mail Friday to The Advocate of Stamford.
"Generally, if the motive of an individual is to gain benefits by causing the death, the person can be disinherited. It is our position that no such evidence exists in this case," he wrote.
Willie Langley said his brother's $1.25 million estate includes two homes, a contractor's lot, and other contracting equipment.
James Langley's brothers want much of the estate to go to his two adult sons, but Mary Ann Langley is listed as the sole beneficiary on her late husband's will.