On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Warren County, Docket No. P-02-438-D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 14, 2011
Before Judges Fuentes and Graves.
In 2002, defendant Roy L. Rambo, Jr. was indicted and charged with murdering his wife Linda Ann Rambo. While defendant was awaiting trial on this criminal charge, Bruce M. Rambo, defendant and decedent's only son, obtained an order from the Chancery Division pursuant to the so-called "Slayer Statute,"*fn1 restraining defendant from utilizing any assets from the marital estate to fund his criminal defense. The court appointed Bruce Rambo administrator of his mother's estate, and the matter proceeded in the Chancery Division from 2002 through 2005.
Defendant was tried before a jury and, on February 9, 2005, was
convicted of murdering his wife. The court sentenced him to a term of
forty years, with thirty years of parole ineligibility.*fn2
Although the exact date of filing is not clear in the record,
sometime between 2002 and 2005 Bruce Rambo filed a wrongful death and
survivor action against defendant on behalf of himself and as
representative of his mother's estate. On July 6, 2005, the Law
Division in Somerset County entered judgment against defendant in the
wrongful death suit and awarded plaintiffs $6,310,000 in damages.
In this appeal, defendant challenges an order entered by the Chancery Division on May 17, 2010 equitably distributing the assets of his former marital estate. Defendant argues that the court misapplied the Slayer Statute and improperly prevented him from accessing funds that were rightly his, resulting in the deprivation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice in the criminal case.
Defendant and decedent married in 1973. After graduating from dental school in 1977, defendant established a dental practice in the Township of Pohatcong; decedent served as a dental assistant and bookkeeper in the office. During the marriage, defendant and decedent acquired several parcels of real estate in New Jersey (referred to as "the Ohio Avenue property" and "the New Brunswick Avenue property") and in North Carolina, as well as extensive personal property and investment accounts. We will refer to these assets collectively as "the marital estate."
On August 16, 2002, officers from the Pohatcong Police Department reported to defendant's dental office in response to a 911 call. Upon arrival, the officers discovered decedent's body. Defendant told the officers that he "had just shot his wife;" a firearm was found nearby. Defendant was arrested at the scene.
While defendant was detained awaiting trial, Bruce Rambo filed a verified complaint and order to show cause in the Warren County Chancery Division, requesting that the court appoint a temporary and/or permanent administrator of decedent's estate*fn3 and restraining the disposition of any marital asset pending the outcome of defendant's criminal trial. The marital estate was valued at approximately $3,000,000.
On August 28, 2002, the court appointed Bruce Rambo as permanent administrator of his late mother's estate, and directed him to provide the court with an inventory and valuation of the estate by October 4, 2002. The order further provided that:
(1) all assets of Roy L. Rambo will be frozen, wherever located; (2) Roy L. Rambo or any of his agents or representatives is enjoined from entering onto any property owned either jointly or individually ...