Managers Blamed for Little Girl's Murder
ATLANTA (CN) - A management company hired a groundskeeper who sexually assaulted, tortured and killed a 7-year-old girl in her apartment building, where he had access to every unit, the victim's mother claims in court.
The slain girl's mother, Joselinne Rivera, sued McCormack Baron Ragan Management Services, in Fulton County Court.
Rivera filed the complaint Monday, hours after voluntarily dismissing a 2012 complaint that raised similar claims. The original complaint also named as defendants the apartment complex and John Does 1-5.
McCormack Baron Ragan, an affiliate of St. Louis-based developer McCormack Baron Salazar, provides property management services to 143 urban communities in several states, according to its website.
Rivera lived with her sister and her three daughters in the McCormack Baron-managed River Ridge apartment complex in Canton, Ga., when her oldest daughter, J.R., disappeared on Dec. 2, 2011.
J.R.'s body was found in a Dumpster on the property. Groundskeeper Ryan McCabe Brunn later confessed to sexually assaulting and killing the 7-year-old in a vacant apartment in the building, according to the lawsuit.
Rivera says McCormack Baron hired the 20-year-old Brunn in late October or early November 2011 as a groundskeeper at River Ridge. He moved into a River Ridge apartment in October 2011.
The mom claims Brunn had a "close, personal relationship" with the property manager, who was the mother of his best friend and roommate, and spent evenings at the apartment of a McCormack Baron leasing agent with whom he smoked marijuana.
She says Brunn, like all McCormack Baron employees, had unlimited access to every apartment key in the complex.
"Soon after moving in, residents noticed Brunn 'hanging out' at the two playgrounds inside the gated community staring at the young children playing," the complaint states.
"At least one resident telephoned the MBR management office and reported that Brunn was bothering the children on the playgrounds, including her own young daughter, and she informed MBR that she was concerned that the newly hired groundskeeper, whom she later learned was Brunn, posed a danger to her daughter and the other children at River Ridge. MBR responded claimed [sic] there was 'nothing [they] could do' and took no action to respond to the complaint.
"On or about Dec. 2, 2011, about three to four weeks after Brunn began formal employment at River Ridge apartment complex, and during his working hours, Brunn approached 7-year-old J. R. as she was entering the front door of her ground-floor apartment.
"Brunn told J. he had 'found' her roller skate, and asked J. to follow him to retrieve the skate.
"Brunn lured J. to a nearby vacant apartment in an adjoining building. Using a key he had taken from the unlocked key storage boxes in the main office, Brunn opened the vacant unit and lured J. inside with the promise of returning her skate.
"Once inside the apartment, the MBR groundskeeper proceeded to sexually assault J., cut her face and neck with a knife and ultimately beat her to death with a hammer.
"Brunn placed J.'s body in a plastic garbage bag along with the apartment key and his tennis shoes, and disposed of J.'s body in the apartment Dumpster; later that evening, Brunn pretended to help search for J. along with other employees of MBR.
"After J.'s body was found, Brunn, along with every other employee at River Ridge, was questioned by law enforcement.
"When Brunn was at the police station being questioned, he telephoned MBR's manager, Sherry Patterson, and told her he expected the police to search his apartment. Brunn asked Patterson to go in to his apartment before the police arrived, and remove a blue duffel bag from his closet.
"Patterson hung up the telephone, and told Doug Byess, MBR's maintenance supervisor, to go and remove the bag as Brunn requested. Byess refused the request, however, and law enforcement later recovered the bag, which contained a 'Hello Kitty' barrette, a snow globe with the picture of a little girl, and the clothes Brunn was wearing when he murdered J."
Patterson and Byess are not parties to the lawsuit.
Brunn was arrested a few days later and pleaded guilty to J.R.'s murder. He killed himself while in custody, according to court records.
Rivera claims McCormack Baron allowed Brunn to watch young children on the playground and gave him unlimited access to every apartment in the complex.
She claims it took no action when, before her daughter was murdered, Brunn told his supervisor that the apartment Dumpster would be "a 'good place' to hide a dead body."
She seeks damages for negligent hiring and supervision, failure to provide security, negligence and wrongful death. The previous complaint, filed on Feb. 9, 2012, raised almost identical claims, and sought punitive damages.
Rivera is represented by Lloyd Bell and Nelson Tyrone III.
In a 2013 motion for summary judgment in response to the original complaint, McCormack Baron claimed that it had run two background checks and a drug test on Brunn before hiring him. It argued that Brunn had no criminal record, giving no hint of violent predilections.
McCormack Baron told Courthouse News that "it would be inappropriate for the company to comment at this time on pending litigation."