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Juvenile Facility Guard’s Bigamous Marriage Complicates Death Benefits

Following the death of a guard at a Cleveland, Ohio juvenile detention center, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program (PSOB), which provides payments to the families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, made an award of $157,873 to the guard’s widow. However, that award is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by another woman who also was married to the guard.

William Lynn Hesson died on April 29, 2009 while employed at a juvenile detention facility. A teen offender pleaded guilty in January 2010 to involuntary manslaughter for hitting Hesson, 39, in the chest during horseplay, which caused his death. [See: PLN, March 2010, p.50]. Hesson’s on-duty death made his family eligible for PSOB benefits.

His wife, Julia Ann Hesson, 29, applied for those benefits, but the PSOB instead awarded them to another woman, Julie Keady Hesson, 41. On May 31, 2011, Julia Ann filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court in Pinellas County, Florida that seeks a “pure bill of discovery” to prove that Julie Keady, who lives in St. Petersburg, has held herself out as being divorced for more than ten years.

William Hesson married Julie Keady in 1995 in North Carolina. While stationed in Hawaii during military service, the couple split up. Julie moved to New York and tried to file for divorce, but was unsuccessful due to her inability to serve the divorce papers on her husband.

William then married Julia Ann Bernhardt in 2004, and the couple had two children together. Julia Ann learned of the previous marriage after William’s death. “Mr. Hesson never informed the plaintiff of his previous marriage to the defendant,” according to the lawsuit filed by Julia Ann.

The suit claims the PSOB awarded benefits to Julie Keady Hesson “even though the defendant admitted to having no contact with Mr. Hesson since their estrangement in 1999.”

Julie Keady’s attorney, Bob Heyman, said that she also had two children with William. “She raised his children by herself. She has not had the benefit of child support for ten years,” said Heyman. “She understands Julia Hesson’s circumstances. Unfortunately, it was the result of a bigamous marriage.” See: Hesson v. Keady, Circuit Court for Pinellas County (FL), Case No. 11004783CI.

Source: St. Petersburg Times

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Related legal case

Hesson v. Keady