- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

DALLAS An unusual civil trial is under way here a battle to determine whether an east Texas man killed his father four years ago.
It's a murder trial, yet it isn't. Like the second O.J. Simpson trial, it involves only money, not possible incarceration. But unlike that California case, this one doesn't come as an aftermath to a criminal trial.
Wrongful-death trials have become a staple of our society over the past generation or so, and while generally they involve big corporations as with the tobacco trials and airline disasters this one centers on a hard-living Texas cowboy and businessman and his spoiled, privileged children, who had a tough time living up to Daddy's standards and expectations.
Nobody has been charged with the March 1, 1998, murder of Charles M. "Charlie" Mayhew, 81, who was found dead in his ranch house bed in Sunnyvale, a shotgun blast having cut his aorta.
Police say they have suspects but not enough evidence to take to a grand jury to seek indictment.
In this trial, it isn't the state trying to prove that Chuck Mayhew, 49, murdered his father; it is Mr. Mayhew's sister, Amanda Mayhew Dealey, 51, an Austin socialite.
Mrs. Dealey filed a $5 million wrongful death suit against her brother, claiming she was afraid he might harm her or her son, Christopher. She accused her brother of terrorizing their father for years and threatening him shortly before the murder to an extent that the elder Mr. Mayhew actually reported the behavior to police.
For the past 10 days, witnesses have testified that Chuck Mayhew repeatedly threatened to kill his father and that the defendant had learned his father both intended to transfer control of most of his investments to Mrs. Dealey and planned to remove the son as a beneficiary on his life insurance policies.
Others testified to his alcoholism and recurring physical belligerence even to his killing neighbors' dogs. Mr. Mayhew admitted earlier in a deposition that he had threatened to kill his father "at least a thousand times," without really intending to do it.
On the stand Friday, he admitted he had often threatened his father, told friends he was a paid hit-man and once claimed he had held a gun to his father's head while he was asleep.
"Did you kill people for money?" asked his attorney, Bill Hommel.
"No," replied Mr. Mayhew, "it was simply drinking beer."
"Did you actually put a gun to his head?" the lawyer asked.
He said he made the remark jokingly, to make a point that his father should have better security at his ranch. "I was laughing when I said it."
Mr. Mayhew testified in depth about the partnership he and his father had in a housing development on a 795-acre expanse in Sunnyvale, a few miles east of Dallas. When the city refused to change its zoning laws, the venture was halted.
After several lawsuits and appeals, the housing development has been in limbo for years. The defendant testified he had put "more than $1 million in cash and 18 years of work without compensation" into that project before he learned his father had removed him from the partnership in April 1995.
"We're here because of money," he said, glowering at his sister a few yards away in front of the witness chair.
Mrs. Dealey took the stand Friday and said her lawsuit was "a really hard thing for [her] to do," but that she felt her father would have wanted his son "to accept the responsibility."
Ten of the 12 jurors must vote guilty for conviction in order to establish a "preponderance of the evidence." That standard is much lighter than it would be in a criminal case, in which all 12 would have to agree on guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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