EGG HARBOR TWP., N.J. The daughter of local radio host and veterans advocate April Kauffman, who was killed in her Linwood home in May 2012, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday under the "slayer statute" to block her stepfather from collecting on $600,000 in life insurance.
The lawsuit by Kim Pack, 31, of Linwood, against James Kauffman is based on a legal doctrine that prohibits those who have caused the death of another to benefit monetarily, said lawyer Patrick D'Arcy, who is representing Pack.
James Kauffman, an endocrinologist with a local practice, filed suit in federal court last summer against Transamerica Life Insurance Co., claiming that it breached its contract with him by failing to pay on two policies held by his wife that named him as the primary beneficiary.
The company, in defending against the suit, enjoined Pack because she is named as the contingent beneficiary, D'Arcy said.
"Now that I have been brought into this lawsuit, I have no choice but to respond, and to begin to fight for what I know is right," Pack said during a brief news conference at her attorney's office Thursday. "I can no longer sit back and allow what I perceive as an injustice to occur. I know that my mother would not want me to sit silently any longer."
April Kauffman, 47, was found shot to death in the master bedroom of her 7,000-square-foot home on May 10, 2012. Her body was discovered by an employee who came to care for her parrots. No one has been charged and the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said Thursday that the case remains open and active.
Within months of her death, Kauffman's husband auctioned her belongings, which included a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a red Corvette. He has remarried, and through his lawyer said Thursday that he has cooperated fully with investigators and had no involvement in his wife's killing.
"This is all about money . . . dollars and cents," said attorney Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., who is representing Kauffman. "Dr. Kauffman has never been identified as a suspect and has cooperated fully with the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office in its investigation."
Jacobs said his client had allowed investigators to search his homes, vehicles, phone records, bank accounts, and other documents through the 20-month investigation.
"It's one thing for Ms. Pack to file a pleading and make some kind of claim. ... It's another thing to prove it," Jacobs said. "In all this time, with all its resources, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office has made no such claim."
The slayer rule applies to civil law, not criminal, so it is only necessary for plaintiffs to prove wrongful death by a preponderance of evidence. Even if an alleged slayer is acquitted in criminal court, the defendant can still be divested of any inheritance by a court administering the estate.
"Not a day goes by that I do not think of her, miss her terribly, and wish that charges were filed against the individual responsible for her murder," said Pack, tears welling as she read from a brief statement in the vestibule of her lawyer's office.
"This morning, through my attorneys, I have filed paperwork in federal court to stop Dr. Kauffman from obtaining the money," said Pack, flanked by her husband, Randy, and D'Arcy.
Just 48 hours before her death, April Kauffman, who had a weekly talk-radio show that spotlighted veterans' affairs, was presented with the Jefferson Award for Volunteer Leadership by Gov. Christie in Trenton. She led a fight to create a veterans' clinic at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point so that area soldiers would not have to drive more than two hours to obtain care at the VA hospital in Wilmington.
In the days after the slaying, Kauffman was remembered by Vietnam veteran Dan Danchak as a "human dynamo." Danchak worked with her on the petition drive.
"Every door opened for her. . . . She was almost magical," Danchak recalled.