WHEN UNDERWRITERS BECOME UNDERTAKERS DESPITE GLARING WARNING SIGNS, THE INSURERS APPROVED THE HEFTY LIFE-INSURANCE POLICY-- AND GAVE TWO CON MEN A REASON TO KILL

Cindy Monkman opened a Gideons Bible in her La Jolla motel room.
She read the verse she had turned to randomly--Psalm 39, Verse 4--then scribbled it in her journal: "Lord, make me know mine end, and what is the measure of my days; That I may know how frail I am."

The passage struck Cindy as prophetic.
"It is a crossroads for me," she wrote that evening of September 30, 1988. "I'm on the brink of a big change."

Though she seemed to most to be her normal, bubbly self, Cindy was hurting inside. A trim, tall, striking woman with a dazzling smile, Cindy had turned 30 two weeks earlier. The birthday had been a traumatic milestone.

She and a longtime boyfriend recently had broken up, probably for keeps. The relationship's end had increased Cindy's nagging doubts about the course her life was taking.

Her quiet desperation carried over to her career. Cindy was a registered dietitian who had earned a master's degree in health education. But she couldn't decide whether to commit to that line of work. In the meantime, she was working two low-paying jobs in the East Valley--one as a dietitian for a medical group, the other as a waitress at a pizza joint.

Cindy was determined not to allow her funk to consume her. She'd signed up for classes in self-esteem at a Tempe counseling service.

And what better way to fight off her demons, Cindy Monkman had written in her diary, than a weekend trip to the sunny beaches of Southern California.

One week after her motel-room epiphany, Cindy met 25-year-old German immigrant Michael Apelt at Bobby McGee's restaurant in Mesa. On October 28, 1988, she eloped to Las Vegas with the lanky, blond stranger. She had known him for three weeks.

Ten days later, Cindy and her new husband walked into a Phoenix insurance agency. The couple told an agent they wanted $2 million in life insurance--$1 million on each--with a double-indemnity clause in case of accidental death. Each spouse was to be the other's sole beneficiary.

Thousands of dollars in commissions awaited agent Doug Ramsey if he could cinch the deal. But Ramsey knew there would be major hurdles in getting such a policy written: Cindy was earning only about $15,000 annually, and Michael Apelt--who had been in the U.S. for about two months--was unemployed and didn't even have a social security card. In his favor, Michael said a $500,000 estate was to come his way from his native land.

Ramsey couldn't justify asking an insurance company to issue such mammoth policies. Instead, he sought $400,000 in insurance on each newlywed.

The Apelts constituted a huge sales windfall for the agent, who was struggling to establish his business in Arizona. He knew from years of experience how rarely people buy life insurance on their own. They usually have to be sold--and sold hard. But who was he to look a gift horse in the mouth?

The first company he approached, Surety Life, looked at the Apelts' tenuous financial state and offered to insure them each for $100,000 instead of $400,000 each.

Ramsey snapped up Surety's offer, then asked a second company, Banner Life, to insure the couple for another $300,000 each. To bolster his case--and guarantee that all-important commission for himself--agent Ramsey falsely tripled the Apelts' annual income in his report to Banner.

On December 22, 1988, Ramsey hand-delivered the $100,000 Surety policy to the Apelts in Mesa. He also told them the larger Banner policy was a go, and he took a check from Cindy for the first month's premium.

Early the next evening, Michael and Cindy Apelt drove to a remote site east of Apache Junction. Michael's brother, Rudi, and Michael's ex-lover, a German woman named Anke Dorn, trailed in another car.

Cindy Monkman Apelt died there, at the foot of the Superstition Mountains, her lifeblood seeping into the desert after a stabbing that left her almost decapitated.

She had been married seven weeks.
A passerby came upon the grisly scene the next afternoon, Christmas Eve, 1988.

Police focused on Michael Apelt as their prime suspect after they learned about the life-insurance policies on which the ink was barely dry.

Two weeks after Cindy's murder, Anke Dorn told police that Michael had conspired to commit murder with his brother, Rudi. She told investigators that, before the homicide, "Michael said it would be a death warrant when Cindy signed the [life insurance] papers."

Furthermore, Dorn told detectives, Michael Apelt told her about the murder after the deed had been done.

Dorn became a star witness at the Apelts' murder trials. By doing so, she received immunity from prosecution.

Separate juries convicted the brothers, and a Pinal County judge sentenced them to Arizona's death row, where they now reside.

Cindy Monkman Apelt's murder was not a crime of passion; it was the business decision of sociopaths for whom taking a human life was the means to a financial end. And the insurers, in their zeal to make lucrative sales, unwittingly abetted a homicide.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Apelt brothers would not have killed Cindy if her life hadn't been insured. Instead, they likely would have turned their criminal intentions to another woman, any other woman.

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