Friday, May 18, 2012

Wrongful death lawsuit filed against former Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt

The suit contends that Ewell Hunt and two deputies failed to protect Chad English.

Ewell Hunt, the former Franklin County sheriff, and two of his deputies failed to heed an informant's tip that might have prevented the murder of a 19-year-old man, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Hunt and former deputies Justin Sigmon and Brian Garland are named in a $5.35 million lawsuit filed in Franklin County Circuit Court on Wednesday in the May 2010 death of Chad English.

Sigmon is now an investigator with the sheriff's office, and Garland is now with the Rocky Mount Police Department.

Jeremiah Lee Stump was sentenced last year to life plus three years in prison for shooting English, 19, in the face. Then-Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Cliff Hapgood said during the August trial that Stump became angry with English after they exchanged an ounce of marijuana for the drug clonazepam. The day after the deal, Stump realized that English had taken a set of electronic scales from him and tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit friends to "take care of him," Hapgood said then. Stump went alone to confront English at the Glade Hill home that English shared with his father, where English admitted he had the scales, apologized and gave them back.

The two went outside later to shoot a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, and Stump then shot English in the face, killing him, prosecutors said.

According to the lawsuit, filed by English's mother, Wanda English, the Franklin County Sheriff's Office had been told by a longtime police informant that Stump planned to kill English.

The informant, identified as Jeff Overstreet in the filing, and others who were not named, sent text messages and phone calls to Sigmon and Garland to tell them Stump planned to kill English, according to the lawsuit.

"The defendants, prior to Chad English's murder, did not warn Chad English, his family or friends of Jeremiah Stump's plan to kill him," the lawsuit stated.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants "were aware from prior reliability of the confidential informant and their knowledge of the existing circumstances that their failure to protect and/or warn Chad English, his parents or friends, would probably cause death or injury."

A phone message left for Hunt was not returned Thursday.

The lawsuit asks for $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages with interest.

In September, Hunt and former deputy Jonathan Agee were named in a $20 million lawsuit stemming from the death of Jennifer Agee.

Jonathan Agee is accused of killing his ex-wife May 30 in the Sheetz convenience store parking lot on Williamson Road in Roanoke, in front of one of their daughters, then fleeing in his patrol car. A Roanoke grand jury indicted Agee in August on a charge of murder and use of a gun to commit a felony. He also is facing criminal charges in Montgomery County.

The lawsuit alleges that Agee, 32, committed one count of battery and one count of assault in fatally shooting his ex-wife, and it accuses Hunt of both gross negligence and willful and wanton negligence for his handling of the news that one of his deputies was armed, enraged and intending to kill Jennifer Agee.

Hunt lost his re-election bid in November to Bill Overton.

No paperwork has been served to the sheriff's office, and spokesman Sgt. Phillip Young said Thursday he was not aware of any plans for the paperwork to be served.

Easter Moses, the Roanoke attorney representing the English family, is out of the office this week.

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