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Beat Your Wife to Death? You Can Still Collect Your Chicago Public Pension From Behind Bars

Beat Your Wife to Death? You Can Still Collect Your Chicago Public Pension From Behind Bars

Although he’s a convicted murderer, guilty of beating his second wife to death and then stuffing her body into the trunk of a car, Chicago’s Eugene Ornstead still collects his firefighter's pension while behind bars.

Found guilty in the 1994 murder of his wife, the 76-year-old former fire department lieutenant currently resides in a prison in Redgranite, Wisconsin.

“But despite his brutal crime, every month Ornstead gets a check from the Chicago firefighter's pension fund for $4,645 dollars. That's more than $55,000 a year and more than $840,000 in pension money since he committed the murder,” Fox Chicago reports.

And although it sounds ridiculous, it’s perfectly legal under Illinois state law.

“Public pensions must still be paid to criminals, unless the crime was committed as part of the pensioner's job. Yet social security disappears behind prison walls,” the report notes.

Pension expert Bill Zettler adds, “"I would characterize it as immoral. Why should the taxpayers be paying a pension to somebody who's in prison for life?"

“Social security, if you're in prison you don't get it. You can start it again if you're out. Why can't the public pensions be just like our pensions?" he adds.

Firemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund President Ken Kaczmarz explains their side of the story: “[N]obody feels good about giving a pension to a convicted felon, but we have to follow the (state) statutes like everyone else."

Ornstead applied for his pension just days after he beat his 40-year-old wife to death, according to documents obtained by Fox Chicago. Amazingly enough, her death actually boosted the amount Ornstead would be paid as her death allowed him to file a "sole survivor."

But who gets all that cash if he’s behind bars?

As it turns out, Ornstead’s daughter from his first wife, now a Chicago police officer with a salary of $76,000, has been cashing his pension checks for the past 19 years. He gave her power of attorney after he murdered his second wife.

Kristyn McClearn said she spends some of her father’s pension on herself.

"A lot of people will be angry but if you read the statute it's fine. Correct? That's what the pension board told you, correct? In my opinion? What he did, he's serving time for it," McClearn says.

"Is it right that he gets his pension? Yes, he deserves his pension. What he did has nothing to do with his being a fireman and he deserves his pension,” she adds.

Ornstead couldn’t be reached directly because the Wisconsin Department of Corrections turned down all interview requests, saying such an interview would have no positive impact" on the public

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

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