Leesburg, VA — A $15 million dollar wrongful death verdict, believed to be the largest ever rendered in the Commonwealth of Virginia, was issued Monday against Steven Combs-Lafleur in the Circuit Court of Loudoun County.
The judgment came in the civil case brought against Combs-Lafleur by attorneys for the Estate of Catherine Anne (Cacey) Combs-Lafleur. The jury took 30 minutes to deliberate and return its historic verdict. Attorneys asked for $15 million as a reflection of the grief and anguish associated with the horrific nature of the crime.
“This was a moral victory for the family,” said Peter Burnett of Burnett & Williams, the attorneys for the Estate. “The family needed their day in court to talk about Cacey. They were troubled that their loved one, this delightful, lovely and thoughtful person, would be remembered not for how she lived but for how she died. I am honored to represent such a deserving family.”
Cacey Combs-Lafleur died Sept. 18, 2010 at the home she shared with her husband outside Leesburg. Steven Combs-Lafleur by his own admission caused Cacey’s death by striking her several times in the head with a two-pound sledge hammer.
During initial questioning by Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department investigators, Combs-Lafleur provided multiple explanations of the cause of death, all of which were inconsistent with crime scene evidence.
At the earlier criminal trial, the defendant admitted to the wrongful killing of his wife but insisted that he had committed a “mercy killing” prompted by his reaction to severe injuries Cacey sustained when a ladder upon which he was standing suddenly “kicked out” and fell on her. He claimed Cacey’s injuries were immediately apparent, unmistakably fatal in nature, and his reaction was to end her agony.
“Combs-LaFleur conceded he was legally responsible for Cacey’s death but he never let go of this unbelievable justification,” Burnett said. “He called it a ‘household accident’ that rendered her brain dead before he ever struck her. The medical examiner thought otherwise.”
In November, the jury in the criminal case convicted Combs-Lafleur of first-degree murder and recommended a sentence of life in prison. Combs-Lafleur will be sentenced March 9, 2012.
The wrongful death claim was filed on Jan. 31, 2011. Cacey’s beneficiaries are her 79-year-old mother and two younger brothers.
Cacey’s niece and nephew testified at the one-day civil trial. “They talked about the family’s grief and sense of loss,” Burnett said. “The family has been deprived of the whole truth and are haunted by their loss.”
Cacey Combs-Lafleur was a long-time Loudoun County resident who was active in many local charities. She worked as a graphic artist for 30 years at the engineering firm CH@MHill.
The 30,000 employee company recently established the Cacey Combs-Lafleur Spirit Award, intended to perpetuate the extraordinary kindness and character of an employee well known to hundreds of colleagues.
The Combs family made a gift in Cacey’s memory to Loudoun Cares, which supports many of the charities which were important to Cacey. “The family has expressed the desire to have the gift be used to help Cacey be remembered for the persons she was during her life,” Burnett said.