ILNews

Suit against Vanderburgh County dismissed

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A federal judge in Indianapolis has dismissed a suit against Vanderburgh County that claimed county officials were responsible for a 2005 triple murder-suicide by an inmate on work release.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued a 13-page order dismissing the federal complaint Christine Sandage, et al. v. Board of Commissioners of Vanderburgh County, Indiana, et al. The suit stems from the deaths of Sheena Sandage-Shofner, Alfonzo Small, and Tara Jenkins, who were fatally shot almost three years ago by Travis Moore. He was serving a four-year sentence for a robbery conviction and was on work release, which allowed him to leave the correctional center periodically under supervision.

A month before her death, Sandage-Shofner warned the county sheriff's department by telephone that Moore had been harassing her at times he was supposed to be at work. The county did not revoke Moore's work release privileges, and after the murders and his suicide, the families of Sandage-Shofner and Small sued the county for contributing to their deaths.

Filing a state and a federal suit in April 2007, the families sought unspecified damages on grounds that the defendants' failure to revoke Moore's work release "created a danger... that would not otherwise have existed."

Judge Barker disagreed, finding that the victims had no constitutional right to police protection from violent crimes in this case and, if they had, the defendants' failure to respond to complaints and remove Moore from work release did not result in a constitutional injury.

She relied on a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in King v. East St. Louis School District 189, 496 F.3d 812 (7th Cir. 2007), which set out a three-part balancing test to prove whether a state-created danger existed. Plaintiffs fell short of complying with that standard, the judge wrote, and granted a motion to dismiss the claims.

None of the parties disputed that the county was acting according to state law when they determined Moore could be put on work release, and Judge Barker declined to exercise jurisdiction on those claims.

Now, those same issues will play out in Vanderburgh Circuit Court on the negligence claims. The parties had held off on the trial court case while the federal suit was pending.
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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

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  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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