Mother Indicted In Daughter’s Death May Still Get Nearly $1 Million In Trust Fund Inheritance

September 3, 2014  |  

Although a mother in Westchester County, NY,  has been accused of killing her severely disabled daughter, she may still be entitled to nearly $1 million from the girl’s trust fund — even if convicted.

Special education teacher Nicole Diggs has been charged with killing her 8-year-old daughter, Alayah Savarese, by withholding food and medical care.

Diggs and her husband, Oscar Thomas (who isn’t Alayah’s father), have pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent homicide and child endangerment in the 2012 death of Alayah.

Alayah was the beneficiary of a trust fund created from the settlement of a malpractice suit that resulted from complications during her birth. According to Diggs’ lawyer, Arlene Popkin, during Alayah’s birth in 2004, the umbilical cord was severed, and she was deprived of oxygen. “The complication left her with cerebral palsy, seizures and a lack of limb control, and as she grew, Alayah could not walk, talk or feed herself, Popkin said in court papers.”

Diggs graduated from Cornell University, earned a master’s degree and was hired to teach special education students at a public school in the Bronx, reports Yahoo. She continues to work for New York City’s public schools, but she has been transferred to administrative duties. She is not allowed contact with students.

And while the indictment against Diggs doesn’t say that the trust fund was a motive in her death, Diggs’ attorney claim prosecutors are suggesting that her client “somehow disposed of her daughter in order to obtain the money.”

The prosecutors do lay out other details in their indictment. They charge that Alayah “was not provided required daily food,” did not get necessary medical treatment, was left unattended many times, and was often kept home from school, depriving her of physical and occupational therapy. According to authorities Alayah’s body had  lacerations, bruises, and welts. Court papers also state that Diggs and Thomas “failed to maintain the child’s hygiene which caused her to have smelly and dirty hair and clothing, a foul odor about her body and bleeding gums.”

Before her arrest there had been many reports against Diggs, some resulting in visits from Office of Children and Family Services caseworkers. One complaint said Alayah was so dirty school staff washed her themselves, and after one shampoo, “the water was black from the dirt.”

If she is convicted, the 32-year-old Diggs could still inherit her daughter’s fortune because she isn’t charged with intending to kill the girl. She is charged with death resulting from neglect. The medical examiner said Alayah’s death from due to her cerebral palsy and seizure condition. Usually states have so-called “slayer statues” to prevent criminals profiting from a crime, but New York courts have generally held that without intent, a homicide doesn’t disqualify a felon from inheriting from a victim, St. John’s Law School professor Margaret Turano, a trust and estate expert, told Yahoo.

Some of the settlement money had already been used. There was a purchase of  a $35,000 van to transport Alayah and money was used to make modifications for her at a home in Dutchess County that Diggs and Thomas were planning to buy.

Alayah’s biological father, Anthony Savarese, will get half the trust fund.

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