Yuma family says military survivor benefits went to wrong person

Yuma family says military survivor benefits went to wrong person

Yuma, Arizona December 8, 2011 - It pains Rosario Zavala to talk about her son Manuel's death.

"He didn't die in combat.  He didn't," says Zavala, fighting the tears and emotion.  "He just left a note so you can imagine how he died."

In her son's suicide note, Zavala says Manuel made it clear that he wanted his fiancee, Felicia Longley and his father, Alberto Zavala as beneficiaries.

But that didn't happen.

The Ninth District Court of Appeals in San Francisco recognized somebody else.

"The blow that we got just before Thanksgiving from the court, the system, and then this young lady that took advantage of my son."

That young lady Zavala refers to is Manuel's ex-girlfriend, August Parker Turner, a Sheriff's deputy for the Yuma County Sheriff's Office.

"Miss Parker-Turner was awarded $400,000 in life insurance benefit that my son had as beneficiary in his life insurance from the Army," says Zavala.

Zavala says Manuel had only dated Parker-Turner for three months, during which he made her beneficiary.  When asked why Manuel made her beneficiary, Zavala explained that she was pregnant with his child, but then miscarried.  According to Zavala, it was later discovered that Manuel was sterile.

And, while she says Parker-Turner won her case by law, Zavala believes Manuel's ex-girlfriend failed to do what's moral and right.

"The families shouldn't have to suffer what we've had to suffer and what we went through," says Zavala.  "And I'm appealing to the public, to the community to help us out."

Zavala wants Congress to change the law on the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Act, which says the beneficiary designation must be delivered before a service member's death.

"If there's a note that didn't make it to whatever department it need to go to, that their last wishes be granted," says Zavala.

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