Date with death for insurance money

By Jim Quiggle
April 1, 2006
Cindy Monkman was enthralled with Michael Apelt, the suave blond German who seemed so intent on marrying her just three weeks after they'd met at a popular night spot in Mesa, Ariz.

Apelt seemed the answer to her aimless life. She'd recently broken up with a longtime boyfriend, worked a low-paying job and had just turned 30. Apelt offered her a magic carpet ride of lifelong romance with a dashing international executive.

But her marriage was a date with death. Apelt and his brother Rudi lured Cindy into the remote desert and killed her for $400,000 in insurance money in 1988.

She died the day after their insurance agent delivered the policy, and just seven weeks after she and Michael were married.

Conned other women

Cindy and the Apelts met at Bobby McGee's restaurant and bar. The brothers were prowling nightspots for gullible and lonely American women. They'd already conned a couple of Phoenix women out of several thousand dollars, claiming they were surfboard manufacturers and Mercedes importers.

But soon the Apelts were low on money again, and Cindy would be their big score.

The night they hooked up with Cindy, they lied they were investment bankers and computer experts who'd recently imigrated to the US.

It worked. Cindy started a whirlwind romance. She and Michael eloped and were secretly married in Las Vegas -- just three weeks after meeting. Only 10 days after tying the knot, Michael persuaded her to buy $400,000 in life insurance from two insurers. Michael was the sole beneficiary if she died.

Michael lied about his assets to obtain that much coverage. He said he had a $500,000 estate back in Germany, and that he'd been an IBM computer programmer. In fact he was a jobless drifter. His last work was as a laborer in a trolley-car factory. But he still got the coverage.

Killed by knife wounds

The policy was delivered on December 22. The very next day, the brothers killed Cindy in a remote desert outside Mesa. They stabbed her in her neck, back and abdomen. A wound on her hand showed she was trying to defend herself during the attack.

Michael even stepped on her face – leaving a bloody footprint that helped tie him to Cindy's slaying.

Michael, Rudi and a friend celebrated with drinks and dinner that night. They went to the same restaurant where they'd met Cindy, and even used her credit card.

The brothers later paid a homeless man $20 to record a threatening message on Cindy's answering machine. The goal was to deflect attention. The man read a message exactly as the Apelts dictated in fractured English:

"Hear what I have to talk. I have cut through the throat of your wife and I stabbed and more frequently in the stomach in the back with a knife. If I don't get my stuff, your girlfriend is next and then our brother and last it is you."

Fighting death sentence

At the brothers' trial, an expert witness said the phone message was worded just the way an English-deficient German would've composed it.

They received the death sentence in1991. They're still on death row, fighting the sentence. The Apelts now claim they're mentally too retarded for execution.

They say their IQs hover around 65 – despite their intricately planned crime. They say they were abused as children. Rudi also says he was hit by a truck and a car during childhood, and attended a school for the mentally retarded.

The Apelts' future is up for question, and Cindy was worried about her own destiny. She kept a journal, and wrote an eerily prescient question the morning after she married Michael.

"I'm VERY happy to be married to Michael," she wrote. "Now I've made my decision. Where do I go from here?"

View previous "Fraud Cases of the Month"

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