Saturday, January 25, 2003

Slain pilot's estate object of legal fight in family

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A brewing legal battle over slain Delta Air Line pilot Stephen Craven's estate is being compared to the O.J. Simpson case by one attorney involved.

A lawsuit has been filed to keep Adele Craven from inheriting her husband's estate if she, in her second trial, is acquitted of involvement in his murder.

William Craven Sr., on behalf of his dead son Stephen's estate, has filed a wrongful death suit in Kenton Circuit Court against his daughter-in-law, Adele Craven. The 39-year-old housewife is charged with complicity to murder, accused of orchestrating the fatal attack on her husband.

"It's sort of like the O.J. Simpson scenario," said Covington attorney Michelle Keller, who is representing William Craven Sr. "This has been a very long and difficult ordeal for the entire family. And they would like to put all these matters to rest as soon as possible."

The suit seeks to block Ms. Craven from collecting more than $430,000 from three life insurance policies on Mr. Craven. The suit seeks funeral expenses and the equivalent of what Mr. Craven would have earned working during the remainder of his career as a commercial airline pilot.

It also seeks unspecified damages for Mr. Craven's two young sons. The children will "continue to suffer the loss of love, affection, comfort, guidance and counsel of (their) father," the suit reads.

It was filed in August 2001 in order to beat a one-year statute of limitations. But attorneys don't expect to move forward with the complaint until after Ms. Craven's criminal trial.

Kentucky state law prevents individuals from benefiting from their misdeeds.

That means a "guilty" verdict would prevent Ms. Craven from collecting anything, but "not guilty" could mean she could stake claim to her late husband's entire estate.

"All the property, real and personal, of every kind and description ... I give, devise, and bequeath to my wife, Adele Craven, absolutely and forever, provided she shall survive me by 30 days," reads Stephen Craven's last will and testament, on file in Kenton probate court.

The assets of the estate, including the proceeds from the sale of the couple's home, have been frozen pending the outcome of both the criminal and civil cases. The couple's former home on Carimel Ridge Drive in Edgewood has been sold for $116,000.

"In the small chance she is acquitted - something we don't think will happen - we don't want to give her the impression she will get any of the life insurance money," said Mr. Craven's brother, William "Bill" Craven Jr. "Adele will never see that money. I can assure you of that."

He has been awarded temporary custody of his brother's two sons, Daniel and Joseph. The brothers, who were 6 and 8 at the time of their father's death, are being raised at their uncle's home in suburban Atlanta. Ms. Craven has indicated in court documents that she would ask for custody of her children if she is found not guilty.

Her first trial ended in December with a hung jury. Eight or nine of 12 jurors wanted to acquit. Two others believed she was guilty. A retrial is scheduled for May 19.

Stephen Craven was found beaten and shot to death in the basement of his Edgewood ranch-style home in July 2000.

The former U.S. Coast Guard pilot was clubbed over the head about 12 times before being shot three times.

An Independence man who had formerly been a car washer has been convicted of murder, accused of being the hired triggerman in the attack. A jury recommended the judge send Ronald Scott Pryor to death row.

Ms. Craven's former lover, Russell "Rusty" McIntire, agreed to testify against her in exchange for life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Mr. McIntire, who hired Mr. Pryor to help him finish the Cravens' basement, worked at night as a Delta Air Lines baggage handler.


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