PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A faulty home-security system led to the murder of a man and his pet, a mother claims in a federal complaint, saying the killer used guns stolen from her supposedly protected home.
The 30-page complaint Julie Heeter filed last week reads like a Lifetime movie. Heeter says she knew her son’s life was in danger, so she reached out to ADT, the company that bills itself as “America’s #1 Home and Business Security Company.”
In addition to having ADT outfit her family’s primary residence in Chester, Pa., Heeter says she also brought ADT out to the weekend home in Benton in fall 2014.
On March 26, 2015, Heeter’s son, Bryan Harris, was shot in the face with a .30 caliber rifle stolen from the family’s Benton home earlier in the day, the complaint states.
Despite assurances from ADT, Heeter says her family received no notification that their Benton home had been burglarized hours before the murder. The “web-based” security system was supposed to alert Heeter by text or email if someone tried to disable the alarm to gain entry, according to the Feb. 3 complaint.
Heeter says she did not learn about the burglary until March 27, when she and her husband made their usual Friday trip out to the Benton residence.
She thought it odd that Harris had not returned her calls all day and began to panic upon finding the Benton home broken into, its heirloom firearms missing, and Harris’ pet shot to death with a rifle, its body left in the house for the family to find.
“While waiting for the police to arrive, Ms. Heeter called ADT and was told that ADT still could not see any problem with the system despite the control panel ripped off the wall and the phone lines disconnected,” the complaint states (emphasis in original).
Heeter says she told the police to look for Cea Jay Chattin, the man she feared for months was coming after her son.
Harris’ employer allegedly told Heeter that her son had not shown up for work that day. He went to Harris’ apartment and found the man dead there, though Chattin had “attempted to make his pre-meditated murder look like Bryan had committed suicide,” according to the complaint.
Heeter says Chattin had “scattered pills around Bryan, moved the chair in which Bryan was located, switched the murder weapon, and covered Bryan’s face with a blanket, as well as other explicit acts.”
Chattin had ripped from the wall the Honeywell alarm panel ADT installed after smashing a basement window to enter the residence, according to the complaint.
Heeter says the ADT employee who sold her family the alarm later told her that the company did not know when Chattin pulled out its monitoring wires because “ADT only checks the connection ‘once a month.'”
This contradicted the salesman’s earlier promises that “the ADT monitoring station would be alerted 24/7 if someone disconnected the phone line” to which the alarm was connected, and that the Heeters would “get an immediate text or phone call of any intrusion or disconnection of the system lines,” according to the complaint.
Heeter says the so-called home-security experts also bungled their installation of a SIM card meant to use nearby cellular tower signals to alert homeowners of a burglary if the phone lines had been cut.
Because the cellular signal in the remote location of the Heeters’ mountain home was too weak for it to do its job, Heeter says the SIM card wouldn’t have worked even if it had been installed properly.
“It did not ‘make any sense [for ADT] to put this type of alarm’ in the Heeters’ home,” a service technician who examined the device after Harris’ murder allegedly told the couple.
Heeter says she clearly communicated her home-security needs to ADT, having contacted them “specifically asking for protection at her home from intrusion by her son’s eventual murderer.”
The complaint says Heeter wanted to “make sure [Chattin was] never on her property,” and told her ADT sales rep that she was more concerned with being notified if her alarm was disabled than with the prospect of having actual property stolen.
She says the salesman assured her its Pulse system fit the bill, and also brushed off her concerns about having an alarm that sounded if an intruder broke a window.
Media outlets that reported on Chattin’s arrest last year described him as Harris’ roommate, but an attorney for Heeter said in a phone interview Friday that it is unclear whether this was the case.
Heeter, who is suing individually and on behalf of her son’s estate, is represented by Lane Jubb Jr., of The Beasley Firm.
The 39-page complaint requests punitive damages for fraud, alleging that ADT’s rep made “intentional, deceptive and [knowingly] false” statements about the alarm solely to induce the Heeters into a quick sale -a tactic the company allegedly advocated.
“ADT instructed its [employees], on a national and companywide level, to use deceitful and unlawful sales tactics in order to further profits,” the complaint says, adding that the company knew of past cases where tragedy ensued because its customers were not warned of a break-in.
Heeter also alleges negligence, wrongful death, product liability and violations of state consumer-protection laws. Honeywell, the company that made some alarm system components ADT installed, is also named as a defendant.
Bob Tucker a spokesman for ADT declined to give a statement on the allegations, citing company policy not to comment on pending litigation.
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