Money is all too often the motive when it comes to murder cases in the United States. That explains why we see so many movies and TV shows with plots that involve life insurance-related murders. Unfortunately, it just so happens that this sort of crime is just as common in real life as it is on the big and small screen. Here are 5 horrifying real-life stories of lies, murder and attempted murder in the name of a big life insurance payday.
In 2014, 22-year-old Army soldier Pvt. Isaac Aguigui was convicted by a military judge of the murder of his pregnant wife, Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui, and her unborn child. Aguigui collected $400,000 in life insurance benefits from the death of his wife, and another $100,000 for funeral costs provided by the U.S. Army.
What makes this story extra frightening is that Aguigui allegedly planned to use the insurance payout to fund a terrorist group comprised of himself and a few other soldiers. The terrorist organization, known as FEAR (Forever Enduring, Always Ready) was allegedly plotting, among other things, to bomb a public park, poison apple crops in Washington State, and even assassinate the president. At the time of his conviction, Aguigui was already serving a life sentence for the murder of two people who had allegedly discovered the group’s plans.
21-year-old Julia Merfield of Muskegon, Michigan is currently serving a 5-20 year prison sentence for soliciting the murder of her husband in 2013.
Merfield, looking to cash in on her husband’s $400,000 life insurance policy, approached a coworker about helping her pull off the murder. The coworker immediately notified police, and then arranged a meeting between Merfield and a friend of his that he said would be willing to kill her husband. The coworker’s friend was actually an undercover detective who secretly filmed two conversations in which Merfield explicitly describes how, where and when she wants the murder to take place. Luckily, in this case, police were able to intervene before anyone was hurt or killed.
Molly and Clayton Daniels
Molly Clayton lost her husband in a fatal car accident in 2004. At least, that’s what she told the police. What actually happened was much more bizarre.
In an attempt to fake her husband’s death and collect on his $110,000 life insurance policy, Molly convinced Clayton to dig up a body from a local cemetery, dress it in his clothes and then stage his own fiery death. And that’s exactly what he did. However, police noticed right away that the circumstances surrounding the accident seemed a bit suspicious. There were no skid marks leading up to the site of the accident, and the fire was determined to have started in the front seat, rather than the engine of the vehicle.
The scheme completely fell apart when DNA testing revealed that the burned body found in the driver’s seat was actually that of a woman. Police later found that Molly had also forged documents in an attempt to create a new identity for her husband, including a fake birth certificate and driver’s license. She had even introduced her two children to a new “boyfriend” Jake Gregg, who was actually just Clayton with dyed black hair.
Pastor Kevin Pushia
In 2010, Former Pastor and founder of a small Baltimore, MD church, Kevin Pushia, was convicted of the murder of Lemuel Wallace, a blind, developmentally disabled man associated at Pushia’s nonprofit organization. Pushia confessed to having hired two men to pick Wallace up from his group home and shoot him in a nearby park bathroom.
Pushia was found out when the insurance company noticed he was listed on Wallace’s $400,000 life insurance plan. He had apparently posed as Wallace’s brother to get his name added to the policy.
The two men accused of committing the act were eventually acquitted and Pushia is now serving a life sentence for ordering the murder, with an another 45 years added on for the additional charge of insurance fraud.
The Eventual Death of “Iron” Mike Malloy
Probably one of the most infamous (and bizarre) cases of insurance fraud is that of the murder (after 5 attempts!) of Michael Malloy in 1933. After Malloy, a homeless man and severe alcoholic, had upset the owner of his favorite speakeasy (by frequently passing out face down on the bar) the owner and 5 friends hatched a little scheme.
Their plan was to take out a life insurance policy on Malloy and then get him to drink himself to death so they could split the payout. But when he failed to die from alcohol poisoning, they realized they’d have to change their approach. They poisoned him with antifreeze, turpentine, rotten food, even rat poison, and he just kept on waking up. One night, they waited for him to pass out at the bar, dragged him outside in sub-zero temperatures, poured freezing water on his bare chest and dumped him in the snow thinking he would surely freeze to death. Nope, Malloy just strolled into the bar the next day thinking he had simply gotten too drunk the night before and passed out in the park.
The 5 conspirators, dubbed ‘The Murder Trust’ by the New York media, eventually did kill Malloy via carbon monoxide poisoning. All five were soon caught and sent to prison where four of them were executed in the electric chair.
The Silver Lining
Fortunately, life insurance companies are meticulous when it comes to paying out benefits and the research involved in processing a claim has led to more than a few convictions of fraudsters, murderers and would-be murders looking to benefit from someone else’s death. So while these crimes are
gruesome, tragic and downright terrifying, we can all rest a little easier knowing that most of the time, justice is eventually done.