A Pierce County man who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing his wife will not receive her retirement benefits, a judge has ruled.
The decision was a win for Cheryl Gacek, who had fought to keep her twin sister Carol Selland’s pension out of the hands of Robert Louis Selland.
Now a second victory for Gacek could be near: a change in the law to specify that future killers in the same situation can’t benefit. The state Senate voted unanimously Friday to approve a proposal that now goes to the House for consideration.
Robert Selland’s insanity plea in the 2011 stabbing death of Carol Selland at their home on 128th Street East sent him to confinement at Western State Hospital, where he remains, state lawyers said in court records. But Gacek said she was told Selland would receive his victim’s pension.
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“I said, ‘Time out. Stop. That isn’t right. He killed her. He shouldn’t get a penny of it,’ ” Gacek recalled.
Carol Selland had contributed to her pension as an employee of the state Department of Labor and Industries. State officials asked a court how to dispose of more than $21,000 in her retirement account. A state law bars “slayers” from profiting from their victims’ deaths, but Robert Selland had been found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor ruled Jan. 22 that the “slayer statute” applies to Selland.
That means the money goes to Gacek, designated by her sister as her primary beneficiary. Gacek said she would hand it over to Carol Selland’s three adult children, who she said in the span of a few days in 2011 lost their mother at their stepfather’s hands and their father to cancer.
Gacek said the court process forced the family to relive the horror of Carol’s death.
She wants the Legislature to make the law clear so that other families don’t have to go through the same ordeal.
Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, introduced Senate Bill 6091 to include someone found not guilty by reason of insanity in the definition of a slayer.
“Sometimes it takes an appalling case for us to see the gaps in state law,” Dammeier said in a statement after the 49-0 vote. “This bill will ensure we will never have a case like it again, and it should bring closure to Mrs. Selland’s family.”
A call to the office of Robert Selland's attorney was not returned.