COUNCIL BLUFFS — A dispute over donations in honor of slain Pottawattamie County Deputy Mark Burbridge has landed in court, with his ex-wife saying Burbridge’s children have not received their share.
The Mark Burbridge Memorial Fund collected more than $160,000 from the public following his murder a year ago, according to the suit. Instead of going to the children, the money was given to his widow, Jessica Burbridge, who has since closed the account, the suit says.
The lawsuit was filed against Pottawattamie County and Burbridge’s widow by his ex-wife, Sara Reinsch.
Reinsch said the public was led to believe that the deputy’s children would benefit — along with his widow — from the donations. Reinsch and Burbridge had two children together — Kaleb, 15, and Karley, 14 — and Burbridge helped Reinsch raise a third, Kelsey Brant, 23, the suit says. Burbridge and Reinsch divorced in 2012, and he subsequently remarried.
Burbridge was fatally shot on May 1, 2017, by Pottawattamie County Jail inmate Wesley Correa-Carmenaty during an escape from custody.
Reinsch claims that after Burbridge’s death, Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason LeMaster and Pottawattamie County created the Mark Burbridge Memorial Fund. Attached to the lawsuit were screenshots of Facebook posts by the Sheriff’s Office stating that the fund was set up “to assist fallen Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Burbridge’s wife and three children.”
In court documents responding to the suit, Burbridge’s widow, Jessica, denied that the donations were for the purpose of assisting the children.
Jessica Burbridge “specifically denies exploiting Mark’s children and has in fact assisted them in collecting” various benefits, her filed answer states. She did state that none of the funds have been distributed to the children.
Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker declined to comment and referred questions to the County Attorney’s Office.
Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber said the Sheriff’s Office didn’t have any authority over the memorial fund.
In their reply to the petition, Danker, LeMaster and County Auditor Melvyn Houser deny the claim that they opened or controlled a bank account for donations to the fund. The county states that the idea for a bank account to help Burbridge’s family came from a recommendation by the Iowa Concerns of Police Survivors organization.
Burbridge’s widow stated in her response to the suit that the children are the beneficiaries of a $400,000 life insurance policy, $171,000 from the Department of Justice and $8,000 from the Homicide Survivor’s Group. Edward Keane, an attorney representing Reinsch in her suit, said the children are not beneficiaries of the $400,000 life insurance policy.
Another life insurance policy on Burbridge is being litigated between Jessica Burbridge, Reinsch and Donna Burbridge, who is Mark Burbridge’s mother. That policy, worth $25,783, was through Thrivent Financial. An attorney for Thrivent said the sum has been placed in a trust with the county until the court renders a decision.
Attempts to reach Jessica Burbridge and Reinsch were unsuccessful on Monday.
Since Burbridge’s death, the children have been awarded monthly payments of $602 from Pottawattamie County’s workers’ compensation provider and $621 per month from health insurance benefits funded by the county, according to the county’s reply.
The next court date for the case is set for June 13.