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Appeals court rules against Florida death row inmate who sued to get victim's truck

TAMPA — Time has not healed Michele Kroeger.

Nearly seven years after her father was slain, she struggles to cope with not having him around to see her daughter start school or her baby son walk.

His killer sits on death row, but even that brings little solace.

William Deparvine, convicted of murdering Tierra Verde residents Richard and Karla Van Dusen, has gone far beyond the typical appeals associated with a death sentence. He has burdened Richard Van Dusen's family with a lawsuit claiming the vintage Chevy pickup jurors said Deparvine killed them for is rightfully his.

Late last week, it appeared the drawn-out, costly legal battle might finally end.

Three appellate judges affirmed on Friday a circuit judge's finding that Richard Van Dusen's estate was in fact the truck's lawful owner. The 2nd District Court of Appeal did not write an opinion, giving Deparvine, 58, slim chance for further judicial review.

"I hope this is the last we hear from him, but I'm still not 100 percent convinced," Kroeger, the personal representative of her father's estate, said Monday.

Her wariness is understandable. In March, Deparvine also threatened to sue her over the refurbished red 1971 Chevrolet Cheyenne her divorced father bought in the late 1990s when he was looking for a hobby.

Richard Van Dusen put it up for sale after remarrying, and Deparvine responded to the classified ad.

Authorities say Deparvine planned to rob and kill the Van Dusens while making it look like he bought the truck and someone else shot them in the head.

The St. Petersburg steel construction worker, just seven months out of prison, even typed up a bill of sale that included 58-year-old Richard Van Dusen's signature.

The day after Deparvine met the Van Dusens to purchase the Chevy, their bodies were found lying facedown in a dirt driveway near Old Memorial Highway in northwest Hillsborough County.

Despite his 2005 conviction, Deparvine continued to argue that the bill of sale proved he owned the truck.

His letter to Kroeger last spring marked the first time he contacted her personally. He accused her of stealing his truck and selling it without his permission. He gave her 30 days to send him $61,800 — three times the alleged value — to avoid another lawsuit.

She has no intention of paying. Though Deparvine's previous civil claims may have had some merit, Kroeger's attorney believes his latest move does not.

"Nothing he might continue to do would have any legitimacy at all," Clearwater attorney Richard Pearse Jr. said. "From this point forward, it would be pure harassment."

Kroeger just wants Deparvine to leave her family alone.

"All this shows that he has absolutely no remorse for what he's done," she said. "Not that it would change anything if he had remorse. But the fact that he continues to pursue us and to make life more miserable, it's just unbelievable."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Appeals court rules against Florida death row inmate who sued to get victim's truck 09/06/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 6:59am]
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