A woman who almost lost life insurance money when her husband’s death was ruled a suicide has filed a $50,000 legal claim against Spokane County Coroner Dexter Amend.
The suicide diagnosis, which Amend later changed, humiliated Carol Weltz and her four children and added to their grief and sorrow, the claim says.
“I argued with him day after day over a period of weeks,” said Weltz.
Weltz’s husband, Stephen, died May 12 after he went out drinking. He’d used drugs and alcohol periodically for years but had been clean for four months.
Before toxicology tests were complete, Amend said the 36-year-old man committed suicide by overdosing on cocaine and heroin.
Amend later changed his diagnosis to accidental death when test results showed low levels of anti-depressants, alcohol and morphine - a byproduct of heroin - but no lethal amounts. Weltz took anti-depressants daily by prescription, his wife said.
American Income Life Insurance denied Carol Weltz $2,000 in benefits because the death initially was ruled a suicide.
Weltz called Amend repeatedly because she didn’t believe her husband killed himself. She didn’t know how to explain the decision to her children, ages 9 to 17.
Weltz, 34, said Amend told her, “You just tell your kids he’s dead and it’s a part of life. You don’t need to explain anything to them.”
Weltz said she wanted to be honest with the children. “I told my kids he listed it as suicide, and I believe this man is wrong.”
The life insurance company paid the $2,000 after Amend changed the death certificate.
Weltz’s claim, filed last week, says Amend ruled the death a suicide based on speculation. It also says he intimidated and harassed Weltz.
Amend did not return two telephone calls to his answering service Tuesday. He and his office staff were in the process of moving to new quarters in the Spokane County Courthouse because county officials want his visitors to clear metal detectors.
Weltz’s claim adds to more than $4 million in legal claims and lawsuits filed against Amend since he took office in January 1995. Several were filed by families who are angry with how he handled a relative’s death.
“This man is devastating people’s lives and he needs to be stopped,” Weltz said.
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