Parents charged in starved teen's death took out life insurance policies on her

DES MOINES — Natalie Finn’s parents took out two life insurance policies on their adopted daughter before the 16-year-old died from starvation and abuse in the family's West Des Moines home, Polk County court filings show.

A Hartford Life Insurance policy carried a $10,000 benefit, according to a court filing related to Natalie Finn’s estate. Another policy that Natalie's adoptive mother, Nicole Finn, took out in 2009 carried a $25,000 benefit.

A court petition filed this month shows that Natalie's adoptive father, Joseph M. Finn II, called about the second policy from Quad Cities-based Modern Woodmen of America the day after Natalie died in October 2016. Nicole Finn was subsequently sent information on filing a claim.

Both Joseph and Nicole Finn have been charged in Natalie's death.

Natalie's oldest adoptive brother, Alexander Finn, also called about the policy. He has not been charged.

Whether anyone receives anything hinges on Nicole Finn's upcoming trial, according to Ned Miller, who was appointed to represent Natalie's estate.

Nicole Finn, 42, faces a Nov. 27 trial in Polk County on multiple felony charges, including first-degree murder, for allegedly abusing Natalie and two teenage siblings who also were adopted.

Nicole Finn has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyers have said she will use a defense of diminished mental capacity.

Joseph Finn’s trial was continued until Jan. 8. The 46-year-old has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, neglect, abandonment and child endangerment.

His attorney, Jim Cook, said Finn doesn’t anticipate using any “special” defenses, instead contending that the father didn't live in Nicole Finn’s home after the two divorced in 2011 and “wasn’t around the kids that often."

Numerous people, including school officials and neighbors, reported they believed Natalie was being abused before she was pulled out of public school last year and died in her own waste in the West Des Moines home.

She was wearing an adult diaper and lying on the linoleum floor of her bare bedroom when police and medics discovered her, according to court documents.

A medical examination found the teen died of emaciation because of the denial of critical care.

Natalie’s death and those of other children adopted out of state foster care have prompted probes by Iowa legislators, the state ombudsman, Iowa’s Child Death Review Team, Iowa’s Department of Human Services and a private consultant hired by the state to review the state’s child-welfare policies.

Joseph Finn has agreed to relinquish any right to the $10,000 he stood to receive from the Hartford Life policy he took out in the event of Natalie's death.

A court petition filed this month by Modern Woodmen asks that a judge ultimately decide who should receive the $25,000 benefit since Natalie’s death was a homicide and her parents may both be disqualified as beneficiaries.

The non-profit fraternal organization asked to turn over the $25,000 to the court so it can be relieved from any liability in any potential court action “because of a controversy not of its making.”

Modern Woodmen and its attorney, Debra Hulett, declined to comment Monday on the civil court action.

The petition shows that the policy Nicole Finn took out in 2009 on Natalie’s behalf named Nicole herself as the principal beneficiary and her oldest son, Alexander K. Finn, an adult, as a contingent beneficiary.

Finn bought the policy after Natalie’s adoption from foster care but before her 2011 divorce from Joe, the filing shows.

On Nov. 8, less than two weeks after Natalie’s death, Modern Woodmen sent Nicole Finn information about filing a claim. The company said Alexander Finn also contacted the company in January this year and was sent information about filing a claim.

Cook said it’s his understanding both parents obtained life insurance on all their minor children.

Normally, the Woodmen policy would pay Nicole Finn first, then Joseph Finn, in the event of Natalie’s death, according to Modern Woodmen’s petition.

But under Iowa law, if a beneficiary is disqualified, that beneficiary “shall be considered to have predeceased the insured.”

Death “by the hand of a beneficiary” automatically disqualifies that person from receiving proceeds under company bylaws.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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