Who is going to pay the bill?

Wednesday, January 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Who pays a hospital bill for a murdered child? The child's mother believes the killer should have to pay, but he's in prison.

News on Six crime reporter Lori Fullbright says Anna Alexander's father killed her when she was barely a year old. That was back in 1999. She lived for 16 hours before dying, her father is now serving time for the murder, and the hospital is looking for someone to pay the $11,000 bill.

We first met Patricia Keeling in 1999, after her daughter’s death, police say Anna's father slammed her against a wall for crying, she died the next day. He was caught and convicted and in the meantime, the state took Keeling's other two children. She spent the next 10 months and thousands of dollars getting them back and getting them counseling.

She feels just she's just getting back on her feet and now learns a collection agency is going to garnish her wages to pay the 1999 hospital bill of her dead daughter. "I'm a single parent of three with no state assistance except some help with daycare. My income is all we have."

Keeling's paycheck is already being garnished $500 a month by the same collection agency for other hospital bills, because her children don't have insurance. She has no quarrel with that, but believes the bill for Anna seems different. "I don't know if they can put it on him someway. I just feel like he did it and he should have to pay for it."

Keeling says she applied for aid at the hospital and the victim-witness center, but was told she missed the deadline. She says they're already living paycheck to paycheck and losing more money will be hard, but what hurts most is this feels like insult on top of injury. "Financially, yes, that's a lot of money, but, the emotional part of it, every month I'll be paying on it will seem this is more money going toward her dying."

St Francis hospital agrees this is a tragic set of circumstances, but, they must look to a child's legal guardian for payment and in that case, it's the mother. They say whether a person comes in from child abuse or a heart attack and dies, the hospital still incurred expenses and the bill still must be paid.

St Francis told KOTV if Patricia can make any kind of payment, they’d work with her. Her only recourse will be to sue the abuser, but since he's in prison, that's likely a dead end.