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Psychological Profile to Explore Christensen Suicide Possibility

February 20, 1987|JAMES S. GRANELLI | Times Staff Writer

The Orange County coroner's office said Thursday that it plans to develop a psychological profile of Duayne D. Christensen, the North America Savings & Loan Assn. owner who died in a car crash Jan. 16, to help determine if he might have committed suicide.

The procedure, which would try to assess Christensen's state of mind at the time he died, is done in situations where there appears to be no other explanation for a person's death, said James. D. Beisner, chief deputy coroner.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Christensen, 56, who regulators claim masterminded a $20-million fraud on his S&L, have thrown some doubt on whether it was an accident or a suicide.

"We need to piece the whole thing together," Beisner said.

The coroner's psychological profile would cover Christensen's medical history and all events leading up to the crash, Beisner said.

Under Pressure

Christensen was under increasing pressure from regulators to stem losses and dwindling capital at his S&L. He faced a noon deadline on Jan. 16 to come up with $6 million. He had been up most of the previous night arranging to acquire $1.5 million to hold off regulators.

But as he was speeding north on the Corona del Mar Freeway at up to 75 m.p.h., his 1985 Jaguar weaved off, on and back off the road at a slight curve and sped 400 feet across a wide median before slamming into a bridge support. He died instantly, the coroner's office has said.

State regulators seized his S&L about 9 1/2 hours later.

Christensen apparently did not suffer a heart attack or any other ailment that might have impaired his driving and nothing appeared to be wrong with his car that might have caused the crash, according to previous statements from the coroner's office and the California Highway Patrol.

Beisner said that his office is still awaiting results from routine toxicological tests and that those results also could help to classify Christensen's death.

A life insurance policy with Prudential Insurance Co. of America, which last year insured Christensen for $10 million, contains a clause that lets the company off the hook if Christensen is found to have committed suicide within two years, said Kent Larsen, the insurance agent for the one-time Westminster dentist.

Christensen's confidante and business manager, Janet F. McKinzie, is both the owner and beneficiary of the policy and has been receiving $2,200 a day in interest while the insurance company pursues its own investigation, according to documents in a U.S. District Court lawsuit that the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. has filed against McKinzie and Christensen's estate.

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