Claire Rice spent an entire month planning her cousin’s murder in order to cash in on two life insurance policies, prosecutors alleged as Rice’s trial opened Wednesday. The money would have kept Rice from from losing her house.
“Evidence will show she was living well beyond her means,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkoff said in opening arguments. “Rice owed $14,000 on her mortgage and as her financial problems mounted, she took out two life insurance policies on Anthony in which she was the sole beneficiary.” Kerkhoff said that Anthony Rice’s insurance was Claire’s “lottery ticket” and an “investment.”
Defense attorneys said the government’s version of events is far-fetched and “makes no sense.”
“Prosecutors theory is a patchwork of tunnel vision and conjecture,” defense attorney Blase Kearney said.
Kearney argued that the government paints Claire Rice as some “insurance mastermind,” but she never collected a dime on the policies. According to Kearney, the policies had a two-year-review period which showed that any policy holders who died within the two years of the period would automatically be under review by the insurance company.
Rice, 66, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder while armed and related weapons offenses in connection with the December 2012 fatal shooting of her 58-year-old cousin, Anthony Garland Rice.
Police found Rice dead in Fort Lincoln Park, right behind Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. He had been shot in the heart and twice more in the back of the head.
Kerkhoff warned the jurors not to be fooled by Rice’s appearance or age.
“Looks can be deceiving,” the prosecutor said. “Looks won’t tell you that she made the payments on Anthony’s life insurance, purchased a .38 revolver, and set up Anthony’s murder.”
According to prosecutors, Anthony’s fiancee overheard Rice telling her cousin about a job she had for him and that she would “pick him up after work” the night before he was killed.
On Wednesday, Natalie Tucker testified that it wasn’t unusual for Claire to help Anthony get odd jobs as an electrician.
“Claire told Anthony over the phone that she had a friend who bought a couple of houses that needed electrical work done,” Tucker said.
According to Tucker, months later, a couple days before Anthony Rice’s death, she called and told him “everything would be happening soon.”
Tucker told jurors that the day before Anthony’s murder, Claire called him and told him, “I’m on the way.” She called 15 minutes later to say she was downstairs. Tucker said it was the last time she saw her fiancee.
Kerkhoff argued that Claire was the only person who had something to gain from Anthony’s demise and that Claire even lied to police before she was even considered a suspect.
Rice’s defense attorney Kearney argued that she lied because she was scared, stressed and being pressured by homicide detectives, and that there is a lack of evidence connecting Rice to her cousin’s murder.
Rice’s trial is scheduled to resume December 11 at 10:30 a.m. before Judge Rhonda Reid Winston.