Court Watch

Absentee Dad Can’t Collect from Son’s Estate

Court rules father won’t get share of $1.4 million legal settlement in death of his son.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jul 2nd, 2019 02:56 pm
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Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A man who committed at least two felonies as he impregnated his first cousin and then largely ignored the resulting son is not entitled to any of that son’s estate, the State Court of Appeals ruled this week.

The unsigned ruling means that Marcus Crumble will not share in the $1.4 million that the estate of Brandon Johnson received last year to settle a case with the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex stemming from the 25-year-old’s death in 2012.

Johnson died from a blood clot that moved to his lungs. His roommate told investigators that Johnson asked for help the night before, saying he could not move his legs. Staff members thought he was faking it and refused.

Crumble had minimal involvement with his son during his lifetime, a three-judge panel said in an unsigned opinion upholding a ruling by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David L. Borowski. The panel included Appeals Judges Joan Kessler, Kitty Brennan, and JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Crumble “had little, if any contact with Brandon before Brandon’s college graduation,” the opinion said. Crumble moved to California when Johnson was five and, while Crumble suspected he was Johnson’s father, that wasn’t confirmed until Johnson was 17 and his mother, Alicia Johnson, requested a DNA test.

Crumble was subsequently ordered to pay child support, which he did until Johnson was 18. Crumble also went to his son’s funeral and paid for funeral expenses.

Alicia went to court to prevent Crumble from inheriting. She argued that Crumble abandoned Marcus Johnson and so under state law was not entitled to a share of the estate.

Borowski ruled that the statute did not apply because Brandon Johnson was not a child when he died. Borowski also ruled, though, that allowing him to inherit a share of the estate would unjustly enrich Crumble.

Crumble was 20 and Alicia was 15 when she conceived Brandon.

“Under the tragic facts and circumstances of this case, including the fact that Mr. Crumble committed both statutory rape and incest, this Court will not allow a six figure windfall to be awarded to Mr. Crumble,” Borowski said.

Crumble appealed, but the three-judge panel rejected his argument.

“To allow Marcus to retain a benefit conferred upon him by the estate of the son he barely acknowledged would violate both logic and the basic principles of fairness,” the panel said.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.

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