The same uncertainty and murkiness that has surrounded the investigation into Larry Billings’ murder has seeped into his estate and all that he left behind.
The most uncertainty surrounds two life insurance polices, contracted by Billings, that have yet to be awarded.
The policies, each $250,000, name Billings’ most-current wife, La Venia Billings, as the beneficiary. Billings’ widow has yet to receive either policy, and thus, more than $500,000, including post-mortem interest, sits in limbo awaiting the ruling of a Faulkner County Circuit Judge.
Both insurance companies involved, Nationwide and USAA, refused to pay out the money to the widow after learning from authorities she was a person of interest in the death of her husband.
The insurance companies stated Billings’ widow filed beneficiary claims in early November following her husband’s murder, but upon their speaking with Faulkner County investigators, they were made aware of the circumstances surrounding Billings’ death, and the investigation the widow.
Nationwide and USAA also refused to pay the policies into Billings’ estate, which La Venia is co-executor of, claiming it could result in multiple liabilities and the possibility of multiple claims.
In responses to the counterclaims made by the insurance companies, Billings’ widow claimed to not have sufficient information to either admit or deny to the claims, and therefore, denied the allegations of being a person of interest.
Motions from both insurance companies moved the separate cases to U.S. District Court where the companies were allowed to pay the money to the court under Rule 22(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states "a defendant exposed to similar liability may seek interpleader through a cross claim or counterclaim."
After paying the money to the court, both insurance companies were removed from the complaint, and the cases were moved back to Faulkner County Circuit Court, where each awaits ruling from Circuit Judge H.G. Foster.
Since returning to Circuit Court — the Nationwide case on Sept. 3, and the USAA case on Oct. 11 — there have been no filings in either case.
In the aftermath of the counterclaim filings by both insurance companies, Matt Billings, son of the 60-year-old murder victim and also a co-executor of the estate, filed a wrongful death claim against his father’s widow and also accused her of conversion of his father’s estate property.
In his claim, Billings’ son asked the court to seek a determination that his father’s widow "willfully and unlawfully killed Larry, or was an accessory before the fact in his murder."
In his accusation of conversion, Billings’ son provided two checks totaling $46,000 from his father’s separate account made out to La Venia Billings, which were dated and deposited in the days surrounding Billings’ death.
Copies of the checks, entered as exhibit 2 in the April 19 filing, show a $34,000 check, numbered 8298, made out to La Venia Billings and designated for bills and attorney fees. The check was dated Oct. 28, 2012, and processed Oct. 29, 2012.
The exhibit also showed a separate $12,000 check, numbered 8296, — also made out to Billings’ widow — dated Oct. 30, 2012, and processed Nov. 1, 2012.
Billings’ widow denied all allegations made by her husband’s son in a May 9 response to the wrongful death and conversion claim.
Attorney Marcus Vaden, who represents Billings’ widow, individually, said Thursday at some point Billings’ son will have to prove his claims.
"It’s one thing to make allegations, but it’s different to have evidence to prove it," Vaden said.
"My client maintains her innocence and has been cooperative," he said. "There has been a number of people that have been looked at."
Billings’ widow made the same claims, herself, in a separate case, currently in the probate division of Faulkner County Circuit Court, concerning her husband’s estate.
"By his assertions, Matthew Billings has, apparently, removed himself from the list of suspects in the death of Larry Wayne Billings," La Venia Billings stated in a May 1 response to a petition filed by Matt Billings to have her removed as co-executor of the estate. "It is unfortunate for Mr. Billings that law enforcement has not removed him from that list."
Chief Deputy Matt Rice declined to comment when asked Thursday if the sheriff’s office had any person of interest, or if any individual had been ruled out of the investigation.
"I don’t want to talk about what we know," Rice said.
The dispute between Billings’ widow and one of his sons has somewhat continued into the dealings of his estate.
Larry Billings’ estate
In the aftermath of Larry Billings’ death, La Venia Billings and Matt Billings were appointed co-executors of the more than $700,000 estate of Larry Billings.
The court initially ruled in favor of Billings’ widow as the lone administrator, but appointed Billings’ son as co-administrator after he filed a motion to have La Venia Billings removed as the estate’s executor.
Since that motion, Matt Billings has filed one other motion attempting to have his father’s widow removed from the estate, however, both motions have been unsuccessful.
Billings’ second attempt to have his father’s widow removed from the estate revolved around a 2012 Volvo that was not included as inventory in his father’s estate.
Billings argued the vehicle was purchased before his father’s death, and accused La Venia Billings of "falsely alleging that she was the sole heir of Larry Wayne Billings and forged the decedent’s name to the decedent’s vehicle title."
La Venia Billings and her attorneys countered that her husband’s name was never forged, and only appeared on the form under a heading for "name of deceased" and to identify "the person of whom the signer is an heir."
Billings’ widow also contends the vehicle was purchased with money from a joint, marital banking account.
"If (Matt Billings) thought it error to omit the car, he should have made a simple phone call or email," La Venia Billings’ response states.
The response went on to say that leaving the vehicle off the estate’s inventory, if indeed it is part of the estate, "is a mistake easily rectified."
Most of the recent dealings with the estate have dealt with allowing the continuance of business proceedings of Billings’ estate, which included ownership of the Conway Roller Rink, of which he was the lone stockholder and president.
The Billings’ estate filed a petition Oct. 3 asking the court permission to retain commercial real estate appraiser.
"Administrative expenses have outstripped the cash holdings of the estate," the petition states. "Cause exists to value and possibly sell the real estate held in the decedent’s estate, including that owned by (Conway Roller Rink)."
The co-executors also filed a Feb. 5 motion for leave to initiate litigation against Level Entertainment, which filed suit against the Conway Roller Rink and La Venia Billings on May 20.
Level Entertainment vs. Conway Roller Rink
Both sides agree that Conway Roller Rink and Level Entertainment entered into an agreement in April 2011 for Level Entertainment to rent two parcels of Larry Billings’ real estate property.
Level Entertainment provided a $75,000 down payment, and monthly payments of $666.66, which increased $166.66 each month, and $1,333.33, which increased $333.33 each month, to rent the property.
In its suit, Level Entertainment claims Billings never provided a legal description of the property, which it states is "essential to make the contract legally binding."
The company now seeks the court to either rule the agreement void, resulting in the repayment of its down payment and monthly payments, or rule that the legal description of the property must be provided, and keep in place the company’s right to exercise its option to buy the property.
Billings’ estate received permission from the court in February to bring legal action against Level Entertainment, but since receiving permission, has only filed an answer to Level Entertainment’s suit, which denied all allegations made by the company except record of its down payment and monthly payments.
In its Feb. 5 motion to seek litigation against Level Entertainment, the estate claimed Larry Billings reached an agreement Aug. 29, 2012, to sell real estate property, including property rented by Level Entertainment, to a developer.
The estate claims the entertainment company had 60 days to exercise its option to buy the real estate property, however, it never acted upon it.
The co-executors stated they were seeking court approval "to seek a declaratory judgement that (Level Entertainment’s) option is lapsed and they must execute the closing documents."
The last filing in the suit was an answer from Billings’ estate, which was filed July 8, according to court documents.
(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1246. Follow Lee Hogan on Twitter at twitter.com/LCD_LeeHogan. To comment on this and other stories, log on to thecabin.net.)