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Susan Reeve Family Gets $10M 35 Years Later

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on September 20, 2010 7:03 AM

22 year-old Susan Reeve was walking to her parent's home in Demarest, New Jersey when she was abducted and violently raped by Robert Reldan. Her body was found two weeks later in a nearby park. The year was 1975, and the now 70 year-old Reldan has been in jail for the murder of Susan and another woman since 1979.

Thirty five years later, Susan Reeve's family filed a civil suit against Reldan for damages after learning that he inherited millions of dollars from his aunt, philanthropist Lillian Garis Booth. Ironically, Reldan was convicted of conspiring to kill his aunt in order to expedite the sizeable inheritance award. Apparently she did not take the conspiracy seriously. The Reeve family has been awarded $10 million dollars. Arthur Reeve is quoted in the Arizona Daily Wildcat: "I think the outcome is very gratifying. My primary objective was to keep Relden from getting that money. I think it is a wonderful resolution that the money that came from a double murder is going to the education of young men and women."

The Reeve family plans to donate the money to their daughter's alma mater, Hollins University in Virginia. The biggest battle in this case was not whether or not the Reeve family deserved the money for the pain and suffering they endured following their daughter's murder, but finding a way to defeat a two year statute of limitations for this type of action. A New Jersey bill that was signed in January of this year made an exception to the statute of limitations for murder victims.

Statute of Limitations places a time frame on when a civil or criminal case can be filed. Waiting too long, for whatever reason, is seen as highly prejudicial to a defendant. A lot of the rationale behind denying a case on the basis of statute of limitations comes out of concern that memories have faded and evidence has been lost over time. In this case, the defendant is a convicted murderer serving a life sentence. Making an exception for the families of murder victims to recover makes sense. Although a $10 million recovery is rare, the Reeve family is putting the money to good use. Relden was recently denied parole based on the concern that he may reoffend if released back into society.

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