A $1 million life insurance policy that police believe prompted the slaying of a housekeeper in Colleyville last year was just one of several high-dollar policies out on the 69-year-old woman.
Anita Fox had $5 million in life insurance coverage when she was slain Sept. 23 in a house she was hired to clean, according to court documents.
Police have said Bernard “Little Joe” Gorman and his father, Gerard “Joe” Gorman — both Irish Travellers — stalked and fatally stabbed Fox in the hope of collecting on a $1 million policy that she didn’t even know existed.
Irish Travellers, a nomadic ethnic group with ties to Tarrant County, often make money by doing questionable home repairs and by taking out huge life insurance policies on one another.
Little Joe Gorman, who police believe drove the getaway vehicle, was arrested in February in Florida. He has been charged with murder and remains free on bail. His father, who police believe attacked Fox, died of apparent natural causes in a motel outside Houston before authorities could arrest him.
Between them, Fox’s daughter and son-in-law, Virginia and Mark Buckland, filed four lawsuits in Tarrant County this spring against three insurance companies, saying they have not been paid the millions of dollars owed to them. One of the lawsuits has since been transferred to federal court.
Responses by the companies say that the policies may have been obtained fraudulently and that it remains unclear whether Fox knew they existed.
At least one of the insurers, citing the ongoing investigation, suggests that the Bucklands could have been involved in the slaying, thus forfeiting any payment.
“Ohio National cannot determine whether Fox was aware of and consented to the policy and, if so, whether Mark Buckland or the ‘nearest relative’ of Fox is a principal or an accomplice in willfully bringing about her death,” attorneys for the insurance company argued in their response to the lawsuit.
The Bucklands’ attorney, Mark Humphreys of Grand Prairie, insists that Fox knew about the policies and that she had even suggested their purchase during a family gathering on Thanksgiving 2007.
Although she had not been diagnosed with any serious health problems, Fox suspected that she didn’t have long to live and wanted to leave something for her family, Humphreys said.
“She just had something that was nagging her,” Humphreys said. “Her attitude was, ‘I’m getting older. You guys need to get some money and benefit from my death.’”
The Bucklands have been cleared of involvement in the slaying, did not commit insurance fraud and just want what’s owed to them, Humphreys said. They are devastated by the suggestion that they had something to do with Fox’s death, he said.
While several aspects of the case may have initially pointed to Mark Buckland’s involvement, Humphreys said, everything can be explained, including how a $1 million policy that Buckland had on his mother-in-law wound up being taken over by the Gorman clan.
Several other policies
When interviewed two days after Fox’s death, the Bucklands told investigators that there were no known active insurance policies on Fox, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Mark Buckland, however, later admitted to a sergeant that he had not been truthful and that he did have a policy on his mother-in-law “and that it was a monster.”
“I think [Mark Buckland’s] attitude at the time is it really wasn’t any of his business as to what insurance policies there were or weren’t,” Humphreys said. “My clients are very down to earth. They don’t live a high lifestyle. They did not want anyone to know that they had a lot of money.”
The Texas Department of Insurance revealed to police that a $1 million policy had been transferred in 2013 to a Patrick Gorman, the brother of Joe Gorman. Joe and Patrick Gorman and two other relatives were paying $700 a month each to maintain the policy with Athene Annuity and Life Co., according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
Police have said Joe and Little Joe Gorman’s greed to collect on that policy led to Fox’s slaying.
But the lawsuits and the court documents filed in response to them point to multiple life policies on Fox, including:
▪ Two policies through Athene, including one for $500,000. Mark Buckland and Patrick Gorman were joint owners of the $1 million policy, with Gorman listed as the beneficiary. No claim has been made on that policy. Buckland was the beneficiary on the $500,000 policy.
▪ A $1 million policy through Ohio National Life Assurance Corp., with Virginia Buckland the listed beneficiary and Mark Buckland the contingent beneficiary.
▪ Two policies with John Hancock Life Insurance Co. — one for $2 million and the other for $500,000, with Mark Buckland listed as the beneficiary.
‘These aren’t poor people’
Humphreys said the policies were bought through insurance agent Charles Mercier, a South Carolina businessman who often visited RV and mobile home parks to sell policies.
“This is what Mom, or Anita, wanted,” Humphreys said.
Fox applied for four of the policies in 2007, Humphreys said. One listed Al Fox III as beneficiary, one listed Virginia Buckland, and two listed Mark Buckland.
“Anita paid for Al Fox’s policy and wanted to pay for Virginia’s, but Virginia wouldn’t let her,” Humphreys said. “Mark Buckland paid for the two that he bought.”
While the policies were expensive, they were in line with the family’s financial health, which was strong even though Fox’s job as a housekeeper might suggest otherwise, Humphreys said. Fox drove twice a month from the RV park where she lived in Alvarado to the house where she was killed in northwest Colleyville — about 80 miles round trip.
“Anita Fox was not some poor, desolate little lady,” Humphreys said. “Her husband owned and operated mobile homes and RV parks and developed them. They had a pretty substantial income and made some pretty good money selling those.”
Mark Buckland has a construction company and also earns a high income, Humphreys said.
“These aren’t poor people trying to make a buck,” he said.
In 2008, Fox suggested obtaining the $2 million John Hancock policy after she and Mark Buckland discussed plans to buy property in Burleson to develop into an RV park, Humphreys said.
“Anita wanted him to be able to complete that project in the event that she wasn’t around to help,” he said.
She later stopped making payments on Al Fox III’s $1 million policy and asked Mark Buckland to take it over. Buckland did, Humphreys said, becoming the beneficiary before it eventually ended up in the Gormans’ hands.
A change in plans
In 2012, Fox went to see a doctor, “complaining about whatever was bothering her,” and received a diagnosis and treatment that soon left her feeling in great health, Humphreys said.
She later expressed concern to the Bucklands that she might outlive the 15-year term-life policies, Humphreys said.
“You know, you’re throwing your money away right now because I’m not going to be dying in the next 15 years,” Humphreys said she told them.
In 2013, Mark Buckland called Mercier, the insurance agent, and expressed an interest in converting the term policies to whole-life policies.
When told that doing so would require about $6,000 a month in premiums because of Fox’s age and the benefit amounts, Mark Buckland balked, Humphreys said.
Mercier suggested entering into a plan where a third party invested in one of the converted policies so that they could share the benefits when the policy paid out, Humphreys said.
In the lawsuit, Mark Buckland says Mercier told him that transferring one of the policies to a third party was “legal and done all the time.” Mercier also told Mark Buckland that his father had a friend who invested in such policies and that Buckland “should not have any concerns,” the lawsuit says.
“Mercier tells the Bucklands that he will pay not only the premiums on that policy, but he’ll pay extra so that these other premiums will be more affordable,” Humphreys said.
Under the deal, Mark Buckland agreed to have the investor become the beneficiary of the $1 million policy on which Al Fox III was the original beneficiary.
Buckland did not realize that Mercier was not licensed to make such a deal and never knew who the third-party investor was, Humphreys said.
“There is no record at all of my client ever having any contact or knowing Gorman in any way, shape, form or fashion,” Humphreys said. “My client never knew them. All they knew is Mercier’s dad had a friend who did these kind of investments.”
Mercier did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Fox was OK with transferring the policy to a third-party investor, Humphreys said.
“My understanding is that was discussed with her and she thought that was a good business decision on Mark’s part,” Humphreys said. “She evidently thought the world of Mark.”
Each of the four lawsuits seeks the amount of the original benefit, a “doubling of damages due to the intentional nature” of each insurance company’s conduct and $50,000 for mental anguish.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655