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Death Benefit: A Lawyer Uncovers a 20-year Pattern of Seduction, Arson and Murder Hardcover – February 9, 1993


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1st edition (February 9, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517582848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517582848
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,397,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At church in Louisville one day in 1987 a woman named Bobbie Roberts asked another parishioner, corporate lawyer Steven Keeney, for help: her daughter, Deanna, had fallen to her death along the Big Sur coast of California earlier that year, and now her insurance company was balking at paying benefits. What emerged was a scandal of far greater magnitude. Soon Keeney uncovered evidence suggesting that Deanna had been pushed off the cliff by her traveling companions, B. J. and Virginia McGinnis, a married couple who had secured a life insurance policy on her the previous day. After further investigation, Keeney came to suspect that over 20 years Virginia McGinnis had killed her three-year-old daughter, her mother and her ex-husband, as well as committing crimes of shoplifting, forgery, theft and arson. Heilbroner ( Rough Justice ) does a respectable job of reporting how Kenney learned of McGinnis's childhood of poverty and abuse. But in his courtroom coverage, surprisingly, this former New York City prosecutor cools down his potential potboiler through a pedestrian analysis of the 1992 trial. B. J. McGinnis, who was indicted, died in prison before being tried; Virginia McGinnis was sentenced to life imprisonment. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC alternate; movie rights have been optioned; condensation rights to Reader's Digest; author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In 1987, Steve Keeney, a Louisville, Kentucky, corporate attorney totally unfamiliar with criminal law, was approached by Bobbie Jo Roberts for advice because her insurance company would not pay the proceeds of her daughter's life insurance policy. Keeney quickly discovered that Virginia McGinnis, the woman with Roberts's daughter when she fell to her death from a cliff in Big Sur, California, had an astonishing history. McGinnis had lived in six homes, all of which had burned to the ground; her three-year-old daughter had died of accidental hanging; her mother and second husband perished mysteriously while under her care. Yet McGinnis had avoided suspicion for more than 30 years. Freelance writer Heilbroner recounts Keeney's tireless efforts to bring McGinnis to justice in a nonfiction narrative that reads like a classic thriller. Readers will find it very difficult to put down. Highly recommended.
- Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
I found the book life-affirming and informative.
Sandi Kay Wheatley
Death Benefit is one of the best accounts of a suspicious death, its investigation, and the trial of the perpetrators that I have had occasion to read.
Unicorn Equus
This is a completely different type of true crime book than anything I've read.
Donna J. Runnels

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Unicorn Equus on January 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Death Benefit is one of the best accounts of a suspicious death, its investigation, and the trial of the perpetrators that I have had occasion to read.
Death Benefit unfolds like a well thought out work of fiction rather than a dry narrative of "just the facts Ma'am." Heilbroner's book captures your attention and refuses to let it go until you have read the last page.
One of the more interesting aspects of this case is that the person who first uncovers the crime is an attorney (Steve Keeney) not a member of law enforcement as one would expect. Keeney, who besides working for a law firm that could have sprung from the pages of a John Grisham novel, is a corporate attorney. Keeney agrees to help (pro bono) a fellow church parishoner. The woman's daughter was accidentally killed falling from the cliffs at Big Sur in California. The Monterey coroner's office has not listed a cause of death and the insurance company will not pay the mother's claim until they receive the death certificate.
Keeney expects fully that at most he needs only clear up a bureacratic oversight instead he unravels a previously undiscovered diabolical trail of arson, fraud and murder, that will make your hair stand on end, dating back to the 1950's. And all perpetrated by the rarest of killers - the female serial killer.
The murderess, Virginia McGinnis(superficially a seemingly normal wife and mother) and her brood of children are perhaps some of the most evil people you will ever run across in print. I would recommend this book highly to anyone interested in reading non-fiction crime. I would also recommend it to my friend Rhonda whose nagging contributed to the brevity of this review. (LOL)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By April on September 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a quick review. As a true crime reader, I always think back to "Death Benefit" as one of the most remarkable true crime stories I have read.

It haunts me in a good way. For me, it is the story of a good man, Steve Keeney, who thought he was doing a small favor for a fellow church member and instead found himself immersed in unraveling a string of suspicious deaths.

What I remember is was how well the author, David Heilbroner, translated Keeney's story, a story of a corporate tax attorney facing the possibility of uncovering multiple premeditated murders. Heilbroner also faithfully captured the level of detail of Keeney's research.

In the midst of Kenney's research, his own world was crumbling, yet Kenney was tenacious. In the end, he had gathered enough data to bring the murderer of his fellow church member's daughter to justice.

I guess for me, Heilbroner's story found a hero in an everyday man.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Donna J. Runnels on May 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is the true story of a tax attorney who does a favor for a woman in his church. He ends up solving several out-of-state murders that the police didn't even recognize as homicides. After pushing law enforcement and district attornies in these states for years, they finally listen to him. This is a completely different type of true crime book than anything I've read.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read several articles and books on the murder of Deana Roberts by two insurance scammers I knew the story. But this book opened by eyes to the difficulties encountered in proving the crime and to the dedication of her mother to achieving justice. The book might more properly be called the story of how a determined corporate attorney, Steve Keeney, enlisted in the fight to prove these circumstances. Through a chance encounter at church he decided to help the mother though that type law was outside his usual practice. The things he learns change his life profoundly. I found the book life-affirming and informative. The writing is excellent and there is no weepiness or sentimentality. There is an abundance of facts and credit to those who helped put the trashy criminal behind bars & finally get a fair trial and punishment. For those who love the law and true crime, this is a great read.
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