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Bill Signed Into Md. Law Protects Victims’ Estates

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BETHANY RODGERS
The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s governor picked up his pen to honor a Frederick woman, and standing in the background, her family broke into smiles.

Ann Sue Metz’s son, Jimmy Trout, held his mother’s photograph, while friends and family members wore Metz’s picture pinned to their shirts. Trout said it was both a day to celebrate and to grieve for his mother, whose husband killed her in 2009.

“Oh, gosh. I don’t think I’ve cried so much before in my life,” Trout said of the May 16 ceremony. “The whole week, we were very emotional because we never really had a chance to relax and reflect on Mom’s life (before).”

A new state law named after Metz seeks to prevent killers from benefiting from the estates of their victims.

The Trouts’ support for the bill developed out of their struggles to protect Ann Sue Metz’s belongings.

Though Marshall Metz was swiftly arrested for his wife’s death, from his jail cell, he sold their family home and took control of her assets. Trout said his family wasn’t able to grieve properly because they were wrapped up in defending their mother’s estate.

Today, after spending more than three years and tens of thousands of dollars on legal battles, the family is still fighting to keep investment holdings out of Marshall Metz’s hands, Trout said.

Jimmy Trout’s daughter, Shannon, said she watched as family keepsakes disappeared and Marshall Metz siphoned money from his wife’s property to fund his criminal defense.

Though the Trouts’ losses are irreversible, she said she believes the new law will prevent the same thing from happening to other families.

“Finally, my grandmother’s death has meant something,” said Shannon Trout, of Bunker Hill, W.Va.

The bill signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley clarifies that someone who “feloniously and intentionally kills” another person cannot inherit property or money from the victim.

The state’s court system in the past has used common law, a loose network of judicial rulings, to prevent killers from profiting from their crimes. The absence of a clearly stated statute has given rise to widely varying interpretations of the law and a lack of predictability for families of victims.

The legislation sponsored by Republican Delegate Kelly Schulz will remove the vagueness, said Jimmy Trout, who lives in Frederick.

When Schulz first backed the bill in 2012, it failed to clear the legislature. But the proposal met with success the second time she and the Trout family brought it before lawmakers.

Jimmy Trout said he knows his mother would have been proud that her family had worked so hard on rallying support for the bill. But it is also what she would have expected of them.

“I always tell people Mom had a way of making lemonade out of lemons,” he said. “She was just fantastic at being able to take a situation and get the good out of it.”

The Ann Sue Metz Law goes into effect Oct. 1.
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Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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