Suspicious insurance policy purchases may offer evidence in murder case

life insurance scam criminal crime

A police chief accused of murdering his pregnant fiancée purchased massive amounts of coverage beforehand.

In South Dakota, a former police chief has now been accused of the murder of his pregnant fiancée in what had previously appeared to be a hunting accident but that has since turned suspicious when it was discovered that more than one life insurance policy was purchased only a few months ahead of the death.

Over $750,000 in life insurance coverage was taken out by the couple months before she died.

The man in question, Russell Bertram, will be facing his trial in February. At that time, prosecutors are hoping to be able to use the testimony of two ex-wives with regards to potential irregularities in prior insurance policy purchases by the former police chief. The 64 year old man has already entered a not-guilty plea to the charge of first degree murder. He was first indicted for the 2009 killing of Leonila Stickney in September 2015. At the time, Stickney had been pregnant, was 26 years old and was engaged to Bertram.

In 2009, evidence of life insurance policy purchases had not yet been brought to the investigators’ attention.

life insurance scam criminal crimeBack then, the Gregory County Sheriff’s office had stated that the investigators had determined that Stickney’s death had been an accidental shooting. Authorities in the state took over the investigation in the form of a cold case, the next year.

Since the time of the indictment’s announcement, the office of the attorney general has been hesitant to provide any additional details. However, court documents filed in December 2015 provided some added information with regards to what may have caused authorities to change their minds about the initial decision in this case. It showed that there was evidence that was adequate to place the nature of Stickney’s death in question and that it may not have been an accident but could rather have been homicide.

Prosecutors intend to produce evidence from late 2008, which shows that Bertram had filed for bankruptcy late that year and had purchased a $150,000 accidental death benefit insurance policy in February 2009. The court document also shows that in there had also been a life insurance worth $750,000 purchased on Stickney and that Bertram “was involved in the purchase.”

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