Special Report: Aftermath
A family's pain is in plain view. Regine Revelus crumbles after learning her 23-year-old son has murdered two of his younger sisters before being killed by police in their Milton home.
"Some days I can barely get out of bed because of my kids. I miss them dearly," said mother Regina Revelus.
Now, more than two years later, Regine is not only battling her nightmares, she's had to battle the company her family hired to help them, a crime scene clean-up company called Aftermath, Inc.
"Dealing with my kids and the cleaning company at the same time, that's too much, that was too much," said Revelus.
Revelus says the bill was too much.
"$32,571.75,” she said.
How she felt when she saw that number:
"I was shocked."
Shocked because the contract her daughter signed with the Illinois-based company didn't provide a total cost estimate, only hourly rates. And Revelus was in such agony she didn't think to call her insurance company to see what costs they would cover.
But it was too late. Revelus says before her insurance claim was even processed, Aftermath, Inc. had already put a lien on her Milton home.
"If they put a lien on your house, that's mean," said Revelus.
She isn't alone. Aftermath, Inc. has moved to place liens on 41 properties in this state since 2006.
Five lawsuits have been filed against the company in Massachusetts.
One person suing is the brother of William Spada, the Dedham man who shot and killed his wife and injured his daughter before killing himself in their home last winter.
According to the court filing, Aftermath, Inc. billed more than $30,000 for a clean-up job the plaintiff claims is valued at no more than about $16,000 and began the process of placing a lien on the home.
The lawsuit claims Aftermath, Inc. "deceived" the Spada family because the company never provided a total estimate of the "reasonably expected cost."
"There’s a one-sidedness here, a vulnerable consumer, a company that has a pattern of operating where practices may be unfair," said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of the Mass. Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
"It was a nightmare, definitely a nightmare, and it lasted over a year," said daughter Pamela Vallon-Jackson.
Aftermath, Inc. put a lien on Pamela's mother's home in Brewster after her mom died.
Pamela says the family hired the company and was stunned to get a bill for a three person crew, bio-hazard containers, and supplies totaling close to $12,000.
"I was in such a state of grief. The gentleman who was here from Aftermath said he'd never seen a case where insurance didn't cover the cost," said Vallon-Jackson.
Most homeowner's insurance will cover some of the crime scene clean-up costs, but insurance industry experts say when they get a bill they won't just write a check.
"We’ll take a look at what we paid in the past, we'll take a look at what a market is for that type of service, making sure policy holders aren't being taken advantage of," said Frank O'Brien, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
We contacted Aftermath, Inc. about the allegations. They told us in a statement:
"We cannot comment on any specifics of this matter due to pending litigation. However, Aftermath strives to provide the best and most compassionate services to our customers while also protecting the safety of our employees. It is truly unfortunate that the real story of who is victimizing families is being twisted."
Pamela and Regine worked out settlements with Aftermath, Inc., but say they still paid more than they ever imagined.
"I just couldn't believe it was happening to us on top of the shock and devastation of my mom's death. It was just horrible,” said Vallon-Jackson.
"When people are in a bad situation, they take advantage of the situation to make money," said Revelus.