with a double indemnity clause for accidental or sudden death -- captivated Alexandria Circuit courtroom No. 2 yesterday.
The policy was cashed in by Frederick Ramsay, former president of Suburban Electric Co., after his vice president was killed, according to court records. The government has charged Ramsay with first-degree murder.
Prosecutors have told the jury that Ramsay hired three men to kill his partner, William B. Young, so he could collect the insurance money.
Young, 54, died Nov. 27, 1981, after a single shot from a .22-caliber rifle ripped through his chest.
Ramsay, 41, of 6609 Hackberry St., Springfield, has pleaded not guilty.
As the government entered into evidence Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Policy No. 6275849 -- noting that it was altered April 2, 1981, to allow Suburban Electric to collect $300,000 instead of $150,000 if Young died accidentally or suddenly -- spectators perked up and lawyers exchanged quick glances.
Alexandria police investigator Joseph Morrash told the 14-member jury that he asked Ramsay the day after the killing if the company had any employe insurance. "He said that they had no insurance, that it had lapsed because they forgot to pay premiums."
The defense, cross-examining Morrash in harsh tones, challenged the insurance policy's significance to the case. Defense attorney Louis Koutoulakos said the insurance policy premiums had been paid only through Nov. 5, 1981, and that only because of a 30-day grace period was Suburban Electric able to collect on the policy.
Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel also handed the judge financial statements showing that Suburban Electric repeatedly paid its insurance policy one month late, and that three days after Young's death Massachusetts Mutual received a check for $378.41, twice the monthly premium Suburban Electric owed.
Ramsay, who was under investigation for Young's death for more than three years, collected the insurance money last year.
Massachusetts Mutual filed a civil suit asking to await the outcome of the Alexandria Police Department investigation before paying the $300,000. But the court in that suit, noting that more than two years had passed since the death and that Ramsay had not been indicted, ordered the insurance company to award Suburban Electric the money.
The attorney for the insurance company in the suit could not be reached yesterday to determine whether the company could demand the money back if Ramsay is convicted.
Today, the defense will begin calling its witnesses and is expected to emphasize the friendship between Ramsay and Young and to question the credibility of the government's key witnesses.
The two main witnesses against Ramsay are Ralph Threatt, 44, who has been convicted of robbery and was charged with conspiring to kill Young, and Thomas Ebron, 26, who admitted shooting Young. Both men, who after plea-bargaining agreed to testify against Ramsay, say they planned and carried out Young's killing on Ramsay's instruction.
The defense is arguing that the two are fabricating a story against Ramsay to benefit themselves.
Of Threatt, who has been granted immunity in the case, Koutoulakos said: "He has the greatest immunity since Nixon." And of Ebron, who faces life imprisonment instead of the death penalty because of his cooperation, the lawyer said, "He is a rotten liar."
Charles Joseph, 36, also has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and faces a 46-year prison term. He testified that he drove Ebron to Young's office at 4114 Wheeler Ave. the day of the slayin.