OH school shooting victims' mothers: money denied

Mothers of teens slain in OH school shooting challenged oversight of fund set to help families


CHARDON, Ohio  — Mothers of teens killed in a northeast Ohio school shooting say they were denied money from a trust fund set up to help the victims’ families and others.

The mothers of two of the three boys killed in the Chardon High School shootings in February 2012 testified Friday in a lawsuit the families filed against the United Way agencies of Greater Cleveland and Geauga County The mothers of 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor and 17-year-old Russell King Jr. testified that fund overseers disregarded them, The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/1bfQxaC ) in Cleveland reported

The families of Parmertor and King and 16-year-old Demetrius Hewlin filed the lawsuit last month in Geauga County, alleging they received a total of less than $150,000 and funding requests were denied. The lawsuit also says more than $950,000 was donated to the Chardon Healing Fund after the shooting at the school east of Cleveland.

T.J. Lane, the teen convicted in the shooting, was sentenced to life in prison and is appealing.

The families of the three victims want an accounting of how the trust was administered and a ruling on whether the process was proper.

The United Way of Greater Cleveland and the United Way Services of Geauga County said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed that the fund is managed transparently according to its purpose. More than $417,000 has been distributed to families of the three slain students killed and three others injured in the shooting, the groups said.

A Geauga County probate judge hasn’t ruled yet on whether the trust has been mishandled, but did question fund organizers about conflicting statements on the fund’s mission and whether victims’ families were properly consulted. He also extended an order requiring oversight of future distributions.

The board paid the three families’ living expenses for a year gave and gave monthly $200 gift cards to each family member, plus extra holiday money, for a time, according to testimony.

But Dina Parmertor said the fund board cut off money without talking with the family, forcing her to return to her nursing job before she was ready. Parmertor also said she could not get answers about how the remaining money was used

Jennifer Deckard, chairwoman of the Healing Fund board, and other United Way witnesses said families were told after payments stopped they could still ask for money if needed. The board did not deny a request from any of the families nor was it asked for additional money, she said.

But King said she was told to seek public assistance when she sought help paying for health insurance because she could not return to work.

The board’s mission also was to help students, school staff and the community, and $250,000 was set aside for community mental health services, Deckard testified.

“We were being made aware specifically of increasing rates of suicide,” she said.

The families’ lawyers argued that a representative from the victims’ families should have been on the board, which included school and community mental health representatives whose organizations received money.

Board member Thomas Connick testified it would have been inappropriate to invite a family member so soon after the tragedy.