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— For the children of Curt Dawkins, the past 13 years have been a bad dream without end. Their father was convicted of murder in 2004 and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The three kids, ages 17-22, received a rare speck of good news this year when a top publisher printed Dawkins’ collection of short stories. Money from the deal goes toward their education.

But now comes the state of Michigan, which wants the money to pay for Dawkins’ incarceration at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater.

The Michigan Department of Treasury filed a lawsuit against Dawkins in October, demanding 90 percent of his assets. It cited a state law that allows the seizure of assets to reimburse the state for an inmate’s expenses.

A hearing is scheduled Jan. 22 in Kalamazoo Circuit Court.

In 2004, Dawkins, 49, fatally shot Tom Bowman and terrorized his housemates during a cocaine-fueled rampage in Kalamazoo. He was sentenced to life without parole.

Dawkins’ children — Henry, Elijah and Lily — said the state’s lawsuit is unfair. They told The Detroit News they’re being punished for something they didn’t do.

“My brother and sister have grown up without their father in their life,” said Henry, 22. “We all have suffered enough.”

The children and their mother moved from Kalamazoo to Portland in 2006. Lily, 17, attends high school while Henry and Elijah, 18, are in college.

But another family supports the state’s action.

Bowman’s brother, Ken, said Dawkins’ children are victims of the crime, but Bowman’s family members were the bigger victims.

“I think it’s a great idea,” the Phoenix contractor said. “He’s in prison because he killed someone. The least he should do is pay for it.”

Dawkins said there’s no excuse for what he did. He said he struggles with guilt and sorrow every single day.

But he objected to the state lawsuit, calling it a Kafkaesque absurdity.

Instead of spending his time in prison on meaningless or nefarious pursuits, he did something productive, Dawkins said. He wrote “The Graybar Hotel,” an acclaimed book that gives insight into the world of prisoners.

He said he’s been a model prisoner, setting a good example for other inmates. And the response from the state wasn’t a supportive note but a court summons for the lawsuit, he said.

“It seems callous to take money from an education fund for kids when they’re already lost their father for the past 13 years,” Dawkins wrote in a note to The News.

The State Treasurer filed the lawsuit Oct. 17, eight days after a story by The News on Dawkins. The story examined the troubling questions raised by lauding the writing of a man convicted of such a heinous act.

Of Michigan’s 39,885 prisoners, less than 1 percent, or 294, paid at least part of the cost of their incarceration during the last fiscal year, according to the state Department of Corrections. Some of the $3.7 million went to the Attorney General’s Office, while the rest went to the state’s general budget.

As for the book deal, the lawsuit said three payments totaling $120,000 were made by Dawkins’ publisher, Scribner, to his literary agent, Sandra Dijkstra of Del Mar, Calif.

The state said it believes one more payment is forthcoming. The amount wasn’t listed in the lawsuit.

After the lawsuit filing, a Kalamazoo Circuit Court judge ordered Dijkstra and Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, to withhold any future payments until the case is settled.

The state also has frozen Dawkins’ prison account, allowing him to spend no more than $25 a month.

The cost of Dawkins’ incarceration wasn’t listed in the lawsuit. The state said it plans to file an affidavit listing the amount.

A spokesman for the state Department of Corrections said it costs $35,000 a year to imprison someone.

fdonnelly@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell

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