SEATTLE - A Kent man was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder in the drowning of his 3-year-old stepdaughter. Prosecutors said 40-year-old Joel Zellmer drowned little Ashley McLellan so he could collect on a $200,000 life insurance policy taken out three months before her death.
The girl was pulled unconscious from the family swimming pool in December 2003 and died two days later. Zellmer said he was asleep when his stepdaughter wandered into the back yard and into the pool while her mother was at work.
At trial, a prosecutor said Zellmer preyed on single mothers he dated so he could target their children for potential insurance payoffs. Jurors were told about other children suffering broken legs, burned hands and a near-drowning.