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Who should collect the life insurance policy of a San Antonio woman whose severed head was identified last year?

By on February 3, 2022 0

San Antonio resident Sally Ann Hines disappeared after leaving her Northwest Side home in December 2017, never to be heard from again.

A trash removal crew found Hines’ severed head in a plastic bag three months later in the swamps of southwestern Louisiana. But it would take until May of last year to identify him. She was 58 years old.

About two months later, in July, Prudential Insurance Co. of America received a claim from her husband, Harold Hines, 79, for the death benefit of about $153,500 on his life insurance policy.

But Prudential isn’t sure that should pay for it.

“Based on information and beliefs, according to law enforcement officials from the Cameron Parish, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department, Harold has not been ruled out as a suspect in connection with the death of the insured,” Prudential said in documents filed Monday in federal court in San Antonio. .

Federal and state laws prevent the beneficiary of a life insurance policy from receiving the proceeds if he or she is the author or accomplice in the death of an insured person.

Prudential therefore filed what is called an inter-pleading action, asking the court to decide who should receive the death benefit.

Sally Hines obtained the group life insurance policy through her then employer, USAA, where she had worked as a senior software engineer. Curiously, she didn’t name any beneficiaries on the policy, according to the court filing.

Sally Hines is survived by one child, Kelly Hines.

Kelly Hines did not submit a death benefit claim.

Nonetheless, benefits would be payable to Kelly Hines if it is determined that her father lost his rights because he was involved in his wife’s death.

Lead tracking

In an interview this week, Harold Hines said he had nothing to do with his wife’s death. The couple had been married for almost 35 years when she disappeared.

“I’m a suspect immediately because I’m her spouse,” he said. “In this kind of death, that’s what happens. I understand that. But there’s not much they can do to investigate if they haven’t even spoken to me after four years. It’s crazy.”

Cameron Parish Chief Detective Jake McCain said Thursday he has two investigators assigned to the case who were in San Antonio for about a week last month following up some leads.

“They are still working on it,” he said.

McCain has confirmed that Harold Hines has not been ruled out as a suspect. Detectives haven’t spoken to him yet “because they’re still doing research,” McCain said.

But McCain added that detectives were told Harold Hines told San Antonio police he invoked his right to counsel when his wife was first reported missing.

“That’s kind of the premise that my guys were working under,” McCain said, adding that maybe he wasn’t quite right about that. He advised checking with the San Antonio police.

A spokeswoman for the San Antonio Police Department said it would “defer to the investigation conducted by the Cameron Parish Sheriff’s Office.”

On Friday, Harold Hines said he met with SAPD detectives for about half an hour in January 2018, but never heard from them. He said he did not invoke his right to a lawyer “because it was not necessary”.

“They were there at my request and seemed happy with what we talked about,” he said. “At that time, there was no idea that my wife would be found dead months later. Certainly, if detectives showed up today, I probably would (invoke the right to a lawyer), but only by sense of self-protection.

Hines said he was never told the cause of death and, to his knowledge, his wife’s body was never found.

After the head was discovered, investigators combed through countless tricks and sent in samples of body tissue. A tip from a Cameron parish woman led to the identification on May 26. Authorities confirmed the identification using dental records.

At the time, Cameron Parish Sheriff Ron Johnson told the San Antonio Express-News that officials had not determined how Sally Hines ended up in the area, but he said the dumps bodies are not uncommon due to the swamp and proximity to Texas. frontier.

“People who know Cameron Parish – or have been here – know there are a lot of alligators around. And they believe that if they dump a body here, the alligators will eat it and they’ll be gone. Johnson said. “Tragically, that’s not unusual for us.”

Sally Hines had various medical issues, Harold Hines said. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and manic depression. She was diabetic, had had a liver transplant and had been hospitalized several times. She had been on long-term disability from USAA for nearly 10 years and was under the care of a doctor, he added.

On the night of his wife’s disappearance, Harold Hines had called emergency medical personnel to their home. The police also came to the house. Sally Hines then left to meet someone.

“That was it,” said Harold Hines. “She went out and met someone, and we haven’t seen her or heard from her since.”

According to The Charley Project, a nonprofit that tracks missing persons cases, Sally Hines left her home at 3 a.m. on December 14, 2017, without her purse, phone, medicine or car.

Money from the life insurance policy would come in handy, Harold Hines said. Sally Hines had “run up a ton of debt”. He paid between $50,000 and $60,000. He wants to use the insurance money to pay off his daughter’s college loans and put some aside for his “last years” in case he has to go to assisted living.

After submitting a claim for death benefits, Harold Hines said he received notices from Prudential that he “was delaying paying it because (Sally Hines’) situation has not yet been clarified.”

The death of the trucking tycoon

Prudential’s plea lawsuit is similar to one filed by Fidelity Guaranty & Life after the 2013 death of San Antonio trucking magnate Bill Hall Jr. Fidelity had asked the court to determine the beneficiary of an insurance policy of $250,000 on Hall’s life.

On October 10, 2013, Hall’s wife, Frances Hall, was driving her black Cadillac Escalade on the 1604 South Loop when she saw the Range Rover the couple owned being driven by her three-year-old lover, Bonnie Contreras. Bill Hall was on a motorbike, following Contreras.

After seeing them, Frances Hall turned around and rammed the Range Rover with the Escalade, and the trio became involved in a motorway chase which ended in the motorcycle and the Escalade colliding , Contreras testified during a 2016 trial. Bill Hall Jr., 50, died in a hospital after the incident.

A jury found Frances Hall guilty of murder. But the judge presiding over the trial allowed the jury to consider during punishment that Hall had acted out of “sudden passion”, which reduced the first-degree felony sentence from five to 99 years or life in prison to a second degree felony and range of sentences from two to 20 years.

The panel gave him the lightest sentence possible – two years for murder and two years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for ramming the Escalade into the Range Rover. Both sentences were served at the same time.

Frances Hall was the primary beneficiary of the life insurance policy. But after his conviction, his son – Justin Hall – applied for the death benefits. He was a contingent beneficiary and argued that his mother’s interest in the life insurance policy was lost under the Texas Slayer Statute, given his involvement in her husband’s death.

In December 2016, about three months after Frances Hall’s sentencing, U.S. District Chief Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio ordered police proceeds to be paid to Justin Hall.

Editors Taylor Pettaway and Elizabeth Zavala contributed to this report.

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