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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Convicted killer inherits $10 million, forfeits it to victim’s family”

    HACKENSACK, N.J. — The family of a Demarest, N.J., woman who was raped and strangled 35 years ago has won a $10 million settlement from her murderer — who inherited a fortune while serving a life sentence — and plans to donate the money to the woman’s alma mater.

    Robert Reldan, who was also convicted of killing a woman from Haworth, N.J., has been behind bars since the 1980s for the murder of 22-year-old Susan Reeve.

    The Reeve family sued him for damages in 2008, when they learned that his aunt had left him millions in inheritance, despite the fact that he was convicted years earlier of conspiring to kill her.

    “”I think the outcome is very gratifying,”” Reeve’s father, Arthur, said Thursday. “”My primary objective was to keep Reldan from getting that money.””

    He said Reeve’s estate will donate all of the money to Hollins University in Virginia, where Susan Reeve graduated five months before she was murdered. The family set up a scholarship fund in her name years ago at the university.

    “”I think it is a wonderful resolution that the money that came from a double murder is going to go to the education of young men and women,”” Arthur Reeve said.

    Under the settlement reached Wednesday in Superior Court in Hackensack, Reeve’s estate will receive $700,000 upfront, plus the annual income from a $9 million trust fund that was set up for Reldan through his inheritance. The estate will receive that income for as long as Reldan is alive.

    Depending on market rates, the income from the trust could range from 4 percent to 7 percent, said Robert Zeller, the attorney representing the Reeve family.

    “”I feel that the outcome is better than we could have done at trial,”” Zeller said.

    Reldan, 70, will receive $200,000, in addition to the $2,080 that will be deposited every year into his prison account. Should he be paroled, he will receive $50,000 a year for the rest of his life.

    Reldan is serving time in the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and was last denied parole on April 1, 2009.

    The state Parole Board has not yet made a decision on his next parole eligibility date, board spokesman Neil Buccino said.

    Once they are denied parole, inmates convicted of murder are not eligible for parole again for a presumptive term of 27 months, plus or minus a discretionary nine-month period, Buccino said.

    In the case of Reldan, the board has indicated that it will go beyond that period, Buccino said. The board takes such a position when there is concern that the inmate poses a substantial risk of reoffending if released on parole, he said.

    Reldan’s attorney, David Shivas, did not return two phone calls Thursday.

    Susan Reeve left for work on the morning of Oct. 14, 1975, and was never seen again. Her body was found two weeks later in a park.

    Authorities later arrested Reldan, a building contractor, and charged him with raping her and strangling her with pantyhose.

    Reldan was also charged with the murder the same month of 28-year-old Susan Heynes of Haworth, who was strangled and left in the woods close to where Susan Reeve was found.

    Reldan was convicted of both murders and sent to prison for life. While in prison, he was charged in 1979 with hiring a hit man to kill his aunt, Lillian Garis Booth, a philanthropist whose estate was worth $220 million when she died in 2007.

    Reldan was convicted of conspiracy and given a five-year term. Still, Booth left him millions in inheritance, writing in one letter that “”I did not believe my nephew would hurt me, nor do I today.””

    The Reeve family, however, felt differently. They filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Hackensack, seeking payment for the pain and suffering endured by Susan Reeve — and vowing to stop Reldan from becoming “”a very wealthy, paroled rapist.””

    The court battle also involved a lengthy effort in Trenton to repeal a statute of limitation that applies to such lawsuits. A claim for pain and suffering must be filed within two years of the cause of action, but a bill signed into law in January repealed that limitation in cases where the deceased is a murder victim.

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