PALMER (AP) -- An insurance agent said the $100,000 life insurance policies Suzette Welton took out on her two sons were unusually large for children.
''Most people didn't need or want or couldn't afford that much life insurance on their children,'' State Farm agent Karen Polak testified Tuesday in state court in Palmer.
Suzette Welton is charged with murder and arson for the fire that claimed the life of her son Samuel, 14, on Sept. 15, 2000. Her son, Jeremiah, escaped the flames.
Prosecutors have said Welton deliberately set the fire to collect insurance money. But defense attorneys argue Welton took the life insurance out as an investment strategy for her sons. They contend one of the boys set the fire, either accidentally or deliberately.
Suzette Welton contacted Polak less than three months before the fire. Polak told the court Welton knew exactly what kind of life insurance she wanted and how much.
Polak, an agent based in Wasilla, told jurors that parents often take out what is called whole life insurance on their children. Not only does it lock in rates for life of the individual insured, but the policy also accumulates a cash value that the children can borrow against later in life.
But The $100,000 policies Welton purchased in June 2000 were unusually high, she said. Most parents typically take out between $15,000 and $50,000 in life insurance for their children, Polak told the court.
Polak said she never questioned why Welton wanted the insurance or her ability to pay for it. She later learned that Welton's own life insurance policy had lapsed because of lack of payment. Welton renewed that policy shortly before the fire.
Prosecutor Roman Kalytiak contends Welton was desperate for money. She had little cash in her bank accounts and had trouble paying for the kids' life insurance, which cost more than a $100 a month. After an initial payment, she tried to make payments from a joint account she had with Jeremiah, but the withdrawal failed for lack of funds.
Defense attorney Greg Heath argued Welton was only trying to help her children. The boys could borrow against the policies while keeping the rate they paid the same.
''That's why whole life is common among parents?'' he asked Polak. She agreed.
Also testifying Tuesday were a deacon and pastor from a local Baptist church who came to Welton's apartment four days before the fire at her request to bless her home and pray with her. However, deacon Oscar Edwards said he spent more time talking to Welton about life insurance than praying, which surprised him.
Heath noted Edwards had once sold life insurance and suggested Welton may have simply been consulting him for advice.
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