Arlene Westervelt’s mother is hoping civil court will bring her answers that the criminal process didn’t.
Jean Hennig filed a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court on March 31 against her late daughter’s husband Lambertus Westervelt, the man previously charged with Arlene’s murder.
Lambertus was charged with second-degree murder in April 2019, after an extensive investigation into Arlene’s June 2016 drowning death on Okanagan Lake. The Crown stayed that charge in July 2020 after more than a year of the matter winding through the courts.
The Crown has not provided a reason for the stay of proceedings, only stating that “new information” arose, making conviction unlikely.
Hennig’s lawsuit seeks a declaration that Lambertus intentionally killed Arlene and must return any assets he inherited from Arlene to Hennig.
The suit alleges Arlene was in the process of divorcing Lamberus when she died. It claims Lambertus killed Arlene, so he could inherit her assets before they separated.
Lambertus and Arlene shared a Lake Country home and had no children together. When Arlene died, Lambertus inherited all of her assets. The suit claims Hennig is the “sole and lawful heir to Arlene’s estate.”
“As a result of the killing, [Lambertus] was unjustly enriched and [Hennig] sustained a corresponding financial deprivation,” reads the lawsuit.
Rulings on civil cases rely on a lesser standard of proof than the beyond a reasonable doubt criterion used in criminal cases. The civil standard is proof on a balance of probabilities, meaning Hennig’s lawyers only have to prove whether it is more likely than not that Bert killed Arlene.
The claims have not yet been tested in court.
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