The Severed Head

Severed heads is why I gave up handling real estate disclosure matters. Seriously. I don’t t make this shit up, you know. It was quite some ways into my practice. In fact, I had been in practice so long that I was thinking that spending my life immersed in divorce and crime might not be the best choice for a happy frame of mind. I had determined to move my practice in another direction, so I was elated when I had a former divorce client call me up with a real estate sale disclosure question. I figured, what could be more mundane that that?  Incest, arson, and mayhem possibly.

This was her question. She was selling her home and her real estate agent told her that she was required by law to disclose any major defects of which she was aware, so she wanted me to tell her if that included the fact that a man had recently been murdered in her home. And his severed head was still missing.  I told her that I didn’t know the answer to that question off the top of my head I could go research it, but doubted that there was much precedent on point here. I told her to just not mention it and presumed it was highly unlikely she would ever be sued for that. Would you sue someone who leaves a severed head in their wake? I did use this event in one of my books. I put the head in “Below the Belt” and you’ll l never guess where I hid it.

The nice lady who asked me this question (and she was a very nice person) came by my office with a check for my advice and some home-made cookies. I thought twice about eating them. Tell me that you wouldn’t t think twice about eating food prepared by someone who woke up in bed next to a headless, handless corpse and claims she slept through all of that. But hey, they were double chocolate, chocolate chip. What’s a girl to do? I ate the cookies. I don’t do real estate sales disclosure questions anymore.

— Deni Starr

The Scissor Stabbing

Today I was on a mission for a lawyer to the quaint Oregon town of Estacada. It is up towards the mountain from Portland on the banks of the Clackamas River and its previous claim to fame was the Safari Club which is now defunct. There is no McDonald’s in town, or Burger King or Wendy’s but they do have an A & W drive-in. While there, I picked up a coke at the grocery market where, on Mother’s Day of this year, a man walked into the store and attacked an employee at knife-point while carrying his recently murdered mother’s now decapitated head.  It’s the city’s new claim to fame.

I remember thinking as I watched this on the evening national news (that’s how you get a crime to go national, tie it to a holiday), that I’d like to be this man’s comp attorney.  I’ve done enough worker’s compensation law in Oregon to know that you get more money for an unscheduled (non-specific) injury than a scheduled one.  For your information, something like a severed finger is scheduled- there is a specific amount of money that everyone gets for losing a finger. More nebulous injuries, such as back-injuries, are unscheduled. I’m fairly certain there is no schedule in Oregon’s worker’s compensation law for going to work only to be stabbed multiple times by a man swinging around his dead mother’s head on Mother’s Day, no less. I’m guessing the emotional trauma on that one is worth a few extra bucks.

As an odd coincidence, my first job involving investigation of worker’s compensation claims, which long predated doing that work for Norma Bates (See- “The Evil that Men Do”) was for a man who was later stabbed to death by his step-son. Weird. That was not a comp injury. That’s how we lawyers think. That’s why when I go to events where some but not all the attendees are lawyers, I ask the guests I don’t know if they are lawyers or normal people. The normal people aren’t always sure why I would ask a question like that, but the lawyers get it.

— Deni Starr