DAMAS FAMILY KILLINGS COVERAGE
ONE YEAR LATER:
- Year after slayings of Guerline Damas, five kids, relatives ask ‘did it really, really happen?’
- Confessed killer Mesac Damas wants to die, so should court system let him?
- Damas family slayings: Year later, still haunting lives of friends, family, deputies
- Jail phone call: Accused killer Mesac Damas talks to father about his slain family, Satan and adultery
MESAC DAMAS CONFESSION VIDEO:
DAILY NEWS STAFF JOURNALISTS TALK ABOUT THE CASE:
- THE FIELD: Naples Daily News staff writer describes how he obtained an interview with Mesac Damas
- THE FIELD: Visual Journalist Greg Kahn discusses being the first journalist at the Damas crime scene, and other observations from the field.
- THE FIELD: Staff Writer Steven Beardsley answers questions about his interview with Mesac Damas
COLLIER COUNTY — She was a hard-working mother trying to provide for her five children.
But the 32-year-old Guerline Dieu Damas and her children were all slain on Sept. 17, 2009, and her husband, Mesac, now 34, confessed to killing them.
Today, a Collier Circuit judge ruled that the $100,000 life insurance policy the North Naples woman took out for her family while working at Publix for 13 years can go to her mother, Thelicia Medor, 53, of Fort Myers, the next beneficiary after the children.
“Insurance money or not, we will never be able to put it behind us because it’s in our faces every day,” Guerline Damas’ brother, Edson Dieu of Fort Myers, said in a telephone interview after the hearing. “We would trade it all if we could have our loved ones back.”
Dieu, the personal representative of his sister’s estate, will pay the family’s remaining bills and the rest will go to his mother.
“She always wanted to donate to victims of abuse,” Dieu said. “Maybe she can do that now. For her sake, that would be nice.”
During the short hearing, Dieu’s attorney, D. Keith Wickenden of Naples, called it a “sad case.”
“This was the man who killed his wife and five children,” Wickendon told Judge Elizabeth Krier, who knew the case well. “... Other than her last paycheck and some insignificant assets, she had a life insurance policy of $100,000.”
Mesac Damas, who is being held without bail in the county jail on six counts of murder, signed a release in September, relinquishing all claims to his wife’s insurance proceeds.
A year earlier, he’d confessed to slitting the throats of his wife and children: Meshach “Zack,” 9; Marven, 6; Maven, 5; Megan, 3; and Morgan, 19 months. They were found dead in the couple’s Stratford Place apartment on Sept. 17, 2009. He blamed his wife, brainwashing and an evil spirit for the slayings and claimed he’d planned to kill himself, but lacked the courage and feared he wouldn’t go to heaven.
Guerline Damas, who had reported domestic violence several times since 2000, had been urged by friends and family to leave him and intended to before her death. They’d been together 10 years, but married only two. The couple had been to domestic violence court three times, and Mesac Damas was arrested once, in January 20009, and was complying with his sentence.
“Under the ‘slayer statute,’ he has not been convicted of murder, although he has confessed,” Wickenden told the judge, noting that her signature could allow the funds to go to her mother after paying the estate’s bills.
He told the judge Damas’ parents “don’t want anything to do with this” and weren’t contesting the insurance payout.
Proceeds of the policy are being held in an interest-bearing account by Publix pending a ruling by Krier, who had to determine Mesac Damas wasn’t entitled to any funds. Florida’s “slayer statute” prevents a person involved in a decedent’s death from inheriting any of the decedent’s property.
Under that statute, 732.802, a conviction is conclusive, but without that, a judge can determine by the greater weight — a preponderance — of the evidence whether the killing was unlawful and intentional.
“Given the fact that he’s confessed, that constitutes a preponderance,” Krier said, noting that she saw it on TV, knew he’d confessed in court, and he’d signed the release in the probate case.
Days after the slayings, Damas confessed to a Daily News reporter after fleeing to Haiti, but confessed again in court here. His public defender is working on an insanity defense.
Edson Dieu, a weapons instructor, said he wished Mesac Damas the best.
“I don’t know what went through his head,” he said. “At least he’s not out there hurting anybody else.”
Krier granted the petition to release the insurance funds today, but the money won’t be disbursed until Wickenden submits an order for her to sign. In addition to the life insurance policy, court records show Guerline Damas had $3,893.78 in her 401k plan and her last paycheck was $1,012.14.
The case was heard in probate court, where the aim is to wrap up the affairs of a decedent and ensure assets pass to the right heirs.
A legal ad about Guerline Damas’ death was first published April 9, 2010, and again a week later, as required by law. Creditors had until July 9 to submit “statements of claims.”
Florida Power & Light, which submitted two bills, withdrew a $67.48 bill and a $45.96 final bill owed from their prior address was waived due to the “special circumstances.”
“Our thoughts and prayers still go out to the family dealing with this terrible loss,” said FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson.
NCH Health Care System submitted one statement of claims listing three bills. Two match baby Morgan’s birth on Feb. 9, 2008, and Guerline’s care a day earlier: $1,902.15 and $1,515.46. Another was a $150 bill dated April 28, 2009.
Collier County EMS and the County Commission submitted two bills, one for $755, which matches the birth of Megan on March 21, 2006, and a $654.42 bill for service on Oct. 3, 2008.
Under Florida probate law, Wickenden must pay expenses in a certain order, eight classes. Costs and expenses of the administration, compensation of the estate’s personal representative, Dieu, and Wickenden’s fees fall under Class 1.
Dieu, who initially was represented by Carl Westman of Naples, had disputed his $17,783.45 bill for 90.10 hours of work, which included $86.45 in expenses. Dieu, who contended he’d done much of the work, agreed to pay Westman $9,719.46 out of the estate.
The next class is reasonable funeral, burial and grave marker expenses, but the state’s Crime Victim Compensation Program — which receives $50 for every convict sentenced — paid $36,000 for the caskets and the Oct. 3, 2009, funeral, the maximum of $6,000 per person.
Reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses are Class 4, but those involve a person’s last 60 days. The remaining bills fall under the last class, claims not cited in the other classes.