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In the early morning of March 1, 1998, Charles Mayhew Sr., 81, was found dead in bed at his home in Sunnydale, Texas, killed by a single shotgun blast to his neck. Mayhew, a former mayor of the small town, east of Dallas, was a millionaire real estate developer and a retired engineer; he left an estate estimated at about $8 million. Because nothing was missing from the house, the police surmised that he was not killed as the result of a burglary gone awry, but was murdered intentionally. Despite an intensive investigation, however, no one was charged or indicted for the crime. In February 2000, Mayhew’s daughter, Amanda Mayhew Dealey, on her own behalf and representing her father’s estate, filed a wrongful-death action against the man she believed killed her father: her brother, Charles “Chuck” Mayhew Jr. Dealey contended that the younger Mayhew had murdered their father because he feared he would be cut out of the older man’s will and because he had been engaged in a long-running fight with his father over a soured real estate development deal. “He had been arguing with his father for years and had threatened to kill him,” said Michelle Harris, a legal assistant to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. But the immediate motivation was money, she said. “Chuck was angry at his father for accepting his resignation from the family real estate partnership.” The defendant denied the charges. “My client didn’t commit the crime,” said defense counsel William Hommel. “There was no criminal prosecution. There was no physical evidence. He passed a polygraph.” But on April 19, a Dallas jury found Mayhew liable and awarded the plaintiffs $26 million, including $12 million in punitive damages. The defense is filing posttrial motions to set aside the verdict. Plaintiffs’ attorneys: H. Steve Sumner and Rebecca Hamilton of Sumner, Schick & Hamilton in Dallas. Defense attorney: William Hommel of Hommel & Starr in Tyler, Texas.

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