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Fight over estate continues after sentencing

Brandon Palladino killed his mother-in-law Dianne Edwards inside

Brandon Palladino killed his mother-in-law Dianne Edwards inside this home on West Hills Road in Melville in 2008. (Feb. 2, 2011) Photo Credit: James Carbone

As Brandon Palladino prepares to go to prison for choking his mother-in-law Dianne Edwards to death, the fight continues over hundreds of thousands of dollars that the Huntington Station man could receive from the sale of the Melville house where the slaying took place in December 2008.

The situation regarding the house - the focus of a family feud that erupted at Palladino's sentencing Thursday in Suffolk County Court - stems from the deaths of Edwards and of Palladino's wife, Deanna, Edwards' only child.

Edwards, who was 59 when she died, left her entire estate to Deanna Palladino, Surrogate's Court records show.

But court records also show Deanna Palladino did not leave a will. She died last February from what Suffolk authorities said was an accidental drug overdose.

Subsequently, Brandon Palladino's mother, Donna Di Russo, filed a petition in Surrogate's Court seeking control of Deanna's estate. In those court papers, Di Russo listed Brandon Palladino as his late wife's sole heir.

Di Russo, of Huntington Station, declined to comment yesterday, when her son was sentenced to the maximum 25 years in prison for strangling Edwards.

Attorneys said it is possible for Palladino, 24, to be blocked from gaining rights to the house, sold last year for $340,000.

Joe Rosenberg, a Uniondale trusts and estates attorney, said when a married person dies with no will, the surviving spouse ordinarily is the estate's sole heir. Disqualifying that spouse because of a criminal conviction is "a real gray area" of the law, he said.

But he said a party wishing to contest Brandon Palladino's rights to the estate could petition a Surrogate's Court judge to void his right because of his guilty plea to killing his late wife's mother.

"I think that the court will likely frown upon a person being unjustly enriched as a result of committing a crime," Rosenberg said.

Donna Larsen, of Ronkonkoma, Edwards' sister, is taking legal action to prevent Palladino from collecting on the house's proceeds. She says, after taxes and fees, Brandon Palladino would earn $241,000 from the sale. Her husband, Andrew Larsen, said the proceeds are in escrow until the dispute's settlement.

Manhattan estates attorney John O'Donnell said the Larsens could argue that Di Russo be removed as administrator of Deanna Palladino's estate for failing to list Donna Larsen as a potential heir.

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