tampabay.com

Boyfriend asks for look at will

A "person of interest" in Sandra Prince's disappearance wants access to her estate.

By REBECCA CATALANELLO, Times Staff Writer
Published August 23, 2007


[Correction - A previous photo caption incorrectly identified Temple Terrace police Det. Michael Pridemore.]

TAMPA- Who has a legal claim to Sandra Prince's $2.8-million estate?

How about the man police have called a "person of interest" in her disappearance?

A year and a half after the Temple Terrace woman disappeared, attorneys are trying to figure that out.

Prince, 59 at the time she vanished around New Year's 2006, is unmarried, has no children, no siblings and her last remaining next of kin - her mother - died in March.

Now, the very man police named a person of interest in Prince's disappearance, believes he has a right to review her will and other estate planning documents, according to court files.

Earl C. Pippin III, 53, who police say dated Prince for five years while he was married, asked a court earlier this year to allow him access to her estate.

Police named Pippin a "person of interest" in Prince's disappearance last September, announcing for the first time that Prince named him the sole beneficiary to her estate.

Attorney William Kalish argued that, on that premise alone, his client should have access to Prince's will in order to either refute the public claims or to allow him to take the necessary action to preserve her assets.

Judge Susan Sexton declined.

Now, an attorney for Prince's conservator - the person legally charged with overseeing the estate in Prince's absence - has asked Sexton to tell him exactly who are legally considered "interested persons" in Prince's estate.

Sexton has yet to file a response.

Conservator Douglas Stalley did not return telephone calls to discuss the case. His attorney, Derek Alfonso, declined comment.

Prince was first reported missing from her Moffat Place home on Jan. 3, 2006, by a neighbor. Her cell phone lay on the kitchen counter. Her purse was gone and police found her blood inside the trunk of her white 1994 Buick Park Avenue, which was parked in her garage.

A few weeks later, police released video of a man trying to access her bank accounts at Temple Terrace ATMs, his face covered with some sort of cloth.

Though Prince was a co-founder of the well-known Agency for Community Treatment Services Inc., a substance abuse treatment program, Prince kept a low personal profile.

Her deep sense of privacy has complicated the investigation into her whereabouts, Temple Terrace police have said. But the criminal investigation is still under way.

State law presumes a missing person is dead after five years, at which point the person's will can be executed as if they are confirmed dead.

Tampa attorney Pete Kelly, who specializes in estate planning but is not connected to the Prince case, said cases like this are rare.

But Kelly said it is possible Pippin could inherit Prince's estate if, within another 3 1/2 years, police have not resolved the case. That could happen even if the authorities still consider him a person of interest in her disappearance.

Longtime friend Susan Horton said the latest developments involving her friend's estate are troubling.

"To think that her life has boiled down to people arguing over her money is revolting and so far away from any principles Sandra stood for," Horton said.

That Prince's case remains unsolved is a source of frustration, she said.

"It's just so maddening," she said, "because in my mind, I've dreamed up that the police know a lot and have a lot but they don't have enough to make things stick."

Neither Pippin nor his attorney could be reached for comment this week. Pippin has declined in the past to discuss the matter.