A Phoenix businessman accused by his stepchildren of murdering his wife for life insurance money prevailed in a federal lawsuit and was awarded the $4.5 million in death benefits.
The Republic reported last year that Peter J. Mizioch had collected life-insurance payments on three gunshot victims before the slaying of his wife, Phyllis Mizioch, at her Phoenix residence in July 2010.
The three earlier homicides remain unsolved. Victims in those cases were Wayne M. “Mike” Snodgrass, a Mizioch business partner killed at his Phoenix office in 1989; Ronald J. Bianchi, a Mizioch debtor whose body was found near Payson in 1999; and David Stark, another associate slain in 2005 in Detroit.
Phyllis Mizioch’s three adult children — Mark, Jimmy and Russell Montoya — sued Mizioch under a statute that blocks a perpetrator from receiving financial benefits as a result of homicide.
Peter Mizioch, 72, who has no criminal record, was identified by police as a suspect, but no charges were filed. He denied any part in his wife’s death and filed a counter claim against the Montoyas.
U.S. District Judge James Teilborg held that, in the absence of direct evidence or testimony implicating Mizioch, a history of deaths and insurance policies does not prove culpability. In his ruling last month, Teilborg wrote that “Mr. Mizioch’s alleged involvement in past and unrelated crimes – ie., loan sharking, money laundering and the murders of Wayne Snodgrass and Ron Bianchi – does not create an issue of material fact regarding his responsibility for the murder of his wife.”
Teilborg ordered the payment to Mizioch of $3.5 million in death benefits from AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, and $1 million from Protective Life Insurance Company.
Mizioch could not be reached for comment. In an interview, Mark Montoya expressed frustration with the decision.
Phoenix man accused by stepkids of murder gets $4.5 million in benefits
September 26, 2012
The Arizona Republic