Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The parents of Chardon High School shooting victims Daniel Parmertor, Russell King Jr. and Demetrius Hewlin, all filed a civil law suit Wednesday in Lake County Court of Common Pleas — the one-year anniversary of the shooting.
Though, it appears, they sued the wrong uncle.
Listed on the Lake County Clerk of Courts website as case number 13CV000415, the suit has all three parties listed as plaintiffs, including Robert Parmertor, Dina Parmertor, Jeannie King, Russell King, Todd M. McKenney (administrator of Hewlin's estate) and Phyllis Ferguson, Hewlin's mother.
The suit is against shooter T.J. Lane, Thomas Lane Jr. and Sarah Nolan — his parents — as well as T.J.'s grandparents and legal guardians, Jack and Carole Nolan, and John Bruening, the Nolan's son-in-law (Lane's uncle).
The 26-page complaint said Bruening was the owner of the Rueger MK III Target .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun Lane used in the shooting, according to the 26-page complaint.
Bruening is also the uncle who T.J. Lane and his deceased brother, Adam, assaulted in Dec. 2009, according to records released in T.J.'s juvenile court proceedings.
However, sources close to the investigation told the Geauga County Maple Leaf Wednesday afternoon that Bruening was not the owner of the handgun.
Instead, the handgun was registered to T.J.’s paternal uncle, Danny Lane, who was away at college at the time of the shooting.
The handgun, which was purchased at Dick's Sporting Goods, was taken from Lane’s paternal grandparents' house, sources said, adding approximately 60 guns were taken from their residence following the shooting.
T.J. plead guilty to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault Tuesday and faces up to life in prison without parole.
Peter Marmaros, a partner in the Akron-based law firm Djordjevic, Casey and Marmaros, and W. Craig Bashein are co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
Marmaros and Bashein are out of town together and were unavailable for comment.
“I always knew this was coming. As you watched the calendar get closer (to Feb. 27, 2013) ... I knew it was coming soon,” said Geauga County Probate Court Judge Tim Grendell, who explained he is in charge of ensuring potential assets — monetary damages — of the victims’ probate estates are preserved.
By law, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within one year of the death, Grendell said, adding while he expected the lawsuit to be filed, he was surprised it was not filed in Geauga County.
The suit contains numerous counts against each defendant, including wrongful death, negligent supervision, parental statutory liability, survivorship and loss of consortium.
Each plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000 as well as statutory damages of $10,000 from each of T.J.’s natural parents and/or guardians.
The lawsuit was filed in Lake County, which generally awards larger jury verdicts, because Thomas Lane Jr. lived in Mentor-on-the-Lake at the time of the shooting, several legal sources told the Geauga County Maple Leaf Tuesday.
While the parents of both Parmertor and King Jr. are administrating their son’s respective estates, Grendell said he appointed McKenney, a former Summit County probate judge and state legislator, as a temporary administrator of Hewlin’s estate when Hewlin’s father, Timothy, filed an application in January to administer his son’s estate.
“We had a hearing. Phyllis Ferguson objected to the father being the planned administrator,” he said, adding Ferguson was non committal during the hearing on whether or not a lawsuit should be filed.
“I was cognizant the statute of limitation of any intentional tort was (Feb. 27). You need to be from Ohio to administer an estate,” he said. “The mother and father were not married and not in agreement. I was in a position where I felt I did not want time to eliminate the possibility of an asset of the estate.”
He added, “I picked (McKenney) — and realized the sensitivity of the situation — to make sure the asset, if any, was properly filed before the statute of limitation ran out.”
Grendell said this is not unusual when there is no will or executor and there are multiple people asserting the right to be administrator.
“You kind of look at the parents first, but when the parents can’t agree ... I was left with little choice but to name a third person,” he said.
The judge said he will have a hearing at a future date to determine whether he wants to keep McKenney as the administrator or go in another direction.
Any settlement in the lawsuit would have to across Grendell’s desk for approval first, he said.
“A settlement in a wrongful death action has to be settled by the probate judge who is in charge of the estate,”?he said. “I’m ultimately responsible for protecting the estate’s assets.”
The case has been assigned to Judge Joseph Gibson, according to the court document.
Check back for more details as they become available.