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Jury will hear harrowing tale

Siegel1A decision this week from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rips the lid off of a saga that begs for treatment on one of those breathless television crime dramas.

A Maryland woman is exposed as possibly the most perilous domestic partner in history. Nancy Jean Siegel (left) apparently devoted much of her life to ruthlessly getting and spending other people’s money.

Developing a taste for gambling in the 1980’s, Siegel left her first husband $100,000 in debt. He had to declare bankruptcy soon after their 1985 divorce.

Siegel’s second husband hid in a closet to escape her rage when he confronted her about stealing his money.

A friend helped her get a car on credit, but she left him holding the bag on the car loan and then, without his knowledge, took out another loan in his name.

She stole wallets from three other people and drained their bank accounts.

She apparently used tears to beg for loans from friends and became hysterical when confronted with her misdeeds.

None of this treachery, however, compares with what she is accused of doing to Jack Watkins.

The widower Watkins was living a comfortable, solvent life on social security benefits and an annuity when he apparently fell in love with the larcenous lady. She pilfered his accounts, maxed out his credit cards, borrowed against his assets, pawned his possessions, and cut him off from family and friends.

According to authorities, she then murdered Watkins and dumped his body in the Virginia woods.  The remains were unidentified for seven years.

In the meantime she married yet another victim and ran up $300,000 in debt in his name before he got wise.

The issue for the 4th Circuit was whether the government should be allowed to tell the jury about the colorful history leading up to Siegel’s involvement with Watkins. The government argued that the sordid story helped explained Siegel’s motive in doing away with Watkins. In a 2-to-1 decision, the appeals court agreed. The case now goes back to district court for trial.

By Peter Vieth

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