Insurer Balks at Payment in Case of Clinton Neighbor Shooting

November 21, 2007

A man whose wife was shot to death — a killing that attracted national attention because the couple lived near Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton — is trying to collect nearly half a million dollars on her life insurance, court papers show.

The insurance company, however, is balking because the husband, Carlos Perez-Olivo of Chappaqua, “has not been ruled out as a suspect,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in White Plains.

New Castle police, who have made no arrests in the year-old shooting, refused to comment on any aspect of the case, including whether life insurance is considered a possible motive.

“When there’s a change in the status of the case from the Police Department’s standpoint, there’ll be a press release,” said Detective Sgt. Marc Simmons, the lead investigator.

Robert Buckley, Perez-Olivo’s lawyer, said that his client was innocent.

Peggy Perez-Olivo, 55, suffered a gunshot wound to the head in the Nov. 18, 2006, shooting, which came as she and her husband were driving from Manhattan toward their home three doors down from the Clintons in Chappaqua. Her death was announced two days later — a year ago Tuesday.

Carlos Perez-Olivo, a 59-year-old disbarred lawyer, was shot in the abdomen during the attack, but told police he was able to drive to a hospital despite his wound. He said the shots were fired by a man who cut off their car on a dark road, then climbed in and shot both of them.

The road would not normally be part of the route home, but Perez-Olivo said he had detoured to find a gas station.

He said he did not recognize the gunman, but described him in detail and police issued a sketch. He also gave police a list of his clients. Perez-Olivo had been disbarred a few months earlier for refusing to return unearned funds to clients. Jurors once accused him of incompetence in defending a murder suspect.

Simmons said at the time that Perez-Olivo’s account of the shooting was “unusual sounding” and that police had not ruled out his involvement. Four days after the shooting, as Perez-Olivo was leaving the police station, he tried to shove reporters who asked him if he had killed his wife, a teacher’s assistant.

Last December, Westchester County police said divers found a gun in a lake near the spot where Carlos-Perez said the shootings occurred. WCBS-TV reported later that the gun was a Walther PPK automatic pistol and had been linked to the shooting, but police have not confirmed that.

In the lawsuit, the Hartford Life Insurance Co. asks the court to hold the money and decide who should get it. It says Peggy Perez-Olivo had two life insurance policies totaling $467,000 and had named her husband as beneficiary. He submitted a claim for the proceeds in December, the company said, but “has not been ruled out as a suspect.”

Calls to the company’s lawyer, Norman Tolle, were not immediately returned.

Buckley, the husband’s lawyer, said, “We have been pushing the insurance company to do this as a first step toward collecting the funds. Because the Police Department and the district attorney refuse to rule out anyone in an ongoing investigation, the insurance company is helpless.”

He would not comment on life insurance as a possible motive.

The company said it is “ready and willing to pay the proceeds” but doesn’t know who should receive the money.

“Should the designated beneficiary, Carlos Perez-Olivo, be convicted of intentional homicide, he could not recover the proceeds,” the lawsuit says. In that case, it says, the money would go to the couple’s three grown children.

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