Bankruptcy won't clear murderer's debt, attorneys say

By Matthew Pleasant
Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 12:32 a.m.

HOUMA — A convicted murderer from Houma will still owe the relatives of his victims money in wrongful-death judgments despite his apparent bankruptcy plans, attorneys say

John Bonvillain Sr. is serving a pair prison sentences — including a life term — for the 2004 deaths of two women. Since his convictions, he's been found liable for more than $1 million in damages to the victims' relatives.

An attorney representing one family, Carolyn McNabb of Houma, says Bonvillain has written her from prison about his plans to file for bankruptcy. But the wrongful-death damages are one debt he'll keep, she said.

“He seems to think that filing bankruptcy is going to get rid of my judgment,” she said. “But it's not going to.”

McNabb represented the family of Ashley Scivicque, 19, whose plastic-wrapped body was found in the trunk of a Cadillac at one of Bonvillain's two homes. He was found guilty of manslaughter and obstruction of justice for the death and received 60 years in prison.

A judge awarded Scivicque's young son $900,000 in a civil suit against Bonvillain, a sum the convict has yet to pay.

Bonvillain was scheduled to present financial documents to McNabb in a courtroom this month, but the hearing was canceled because he was attending proceedings in a second wrongful-death suit filed against him.

The judge in that case ruled that Bonvillain must pay $1 million to Diana Eskine of Gray, the mother of his deceased wife, Cheryle McCann Bonvillain, 26. Bonvillain was convicted of murdering her by leaving her in a locked storage box at his house. He received automatic life imprisonment.

Bonvillain represented himself in both civil suits and was transported to the Terrebonne Parish courtrooms from prison.

If his debts and assets are examined in bankruptcy proceedings, the wrongful-death judgments won't be cleared, said Michael Koch, an Alexandria attorney whose firm provides bankruptcy services.

Debts accrued through “intentional acts” cannot be removed, he said. Bonvillain's wrongful-death judgments fall in that category.

“A murder would be an intentional act,” he said.

McNabb said she has not seen court filings for the bankruptcy Bonvillain plans to file. He says he filed once before, she said.

Eskine said no money can compensate for her daughter's death, but she doesn't think he should try to escape his obligation to pay.

“He should be accountable for what he did,” she said. “Pay what you've got to pay. Don't try to slide out of it by filing for bankruptcy.”

Staff Writer Matthew Pleasant can be reached at 857-2202 or matthew.pleasant@houmatoday.com.

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