WEAVERVILLE, Calif. (CN) – A husband and wife stabbed at the site of a double homicide are seeking $10 million because the sheriff’s office sent them there to check on one of the victims, according to claims against Trinity County.
A Trinity County Sheriff’s corporal asked James and Norma Gund of Kettenpom to investigate a 911 call from the Gund’s neighbor’s residence, in which a woman whispered “help, help” over and over, according to the couple. The Sheriff’s Department released a statement that the Gunds were instructed not to go to the residence, however, according to the Trinity Journal, on Sept. 7.
According to the Gund’s claims, the sheriff’s office, which is more than 2 hours from Kettenpom, attempted to call the victim back “but was unsuccessful,” and then Sheriff Corporal Whitman called the Gunds and asked them to check on Kristine Constantino, a neighbor a quarter mile away, saying there was “likely a phone malfunction due to the recent inclement weather.” Nothing was said about the whispered cry for help, according to the couple.
“Claimants drove to the residence together in their truck. They had no safety concerns in following Corporal Whitman’s request because Corporal Whitman had not advised them that a whispering “help me” distress call had been received from the Constantino residence.”
According to the claims, a short time after Mrs. Gund went up to the residence to check on Ms. Constantino, “Mr. Gund heard a commotion coming from the residence. He excited his truck and walked to the residence to check on his wife. As he got near the front door he could see an unknown male attacking his wife. Mr. Gund could see the suspect holding Mrs. Gund down and proceed to cut her throat with a knife. Mr. Gund thereafter ran to the door and entered the house in an attempt to help Mrs. Gund.
“As Mr. Gund entered the home, the assailant attacked him. Mrs. Gund was able to get away at that time and was able to drive their vehicle to the Kettenpom store. Mr. Gund was Tased by the suspect and punched several times. Claimant could see a motionless body on the floor in the living room of the residence with a bag over the head. Mr. Gund believed that the individual he observed was deceased and he suspected that the assailant was going to attempt to kill him.
“The assailant placed his knife by Mr. Gund’s throat and managed to cut Mr. Gund. However, Mr. Gund was ultimately able to grab the knife with his hand and disarm the suspect.”
The suspect, Tomas Gouverneur, fled, and Mr. Gund was able to give a description of the car and the license plate number to the sheriff’s office, according to the Redding Record Searchlight, on Sept. 8. Gouverneur was killed in a crash during the chase that followed.
At the Constantino home, the sheriff’s deputies found evidence of a marijuana operation. In Gouverneur’s car the deputies found some cash, and marijuana packaged in the same way as it was at the home.
Kristine Constantino and Christopher Richardson were found dead at the home.
Toxicology tests of Constantino, Richardson and Gouverneur showed no drugs in their systems.
Richardson and Constantino were a couple, and Richardson and Gouverneur knew each other from Oregon, according to the Corvalis Gazette Times, on March 19. The Gazette reported that both were described with the words “kind” and “gentle,” and that their families were baffled by what had happened.
Mr. and Mrs. Gund each sustained a “severe laceration” to the throat, and Mrs. Gund “continues with difficulty speaking and breathing,” according to the couple. Both also claim emotional distress.
Allegedly, no transcripts of the call from Corporal Whitman to the Gunds exists, as it was made on a cell phone, according to the claims.
A sheriff’s deputy has stated he thought the Gunds could see the Constantino residence from their home when he asked them to call the sheriff’s office if they saw any suspicious vehicles or people coming from the neighbor’s place, according to the Trinity Journal on March 18, shortly after the murders.
Mr. and Mrs. Gunds’ claims together request $10 million for negligence and violation of law enforcement standards against the county. The claims also list individuals in the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department who might be liable as: Corporal Ron Whitman, Deputy Ron Hanover, Deputy Will Robles, Deputy Joshua Ford; Deputy Nathan Trujillo, Corporal Will Oliver, Detective Jeramy Ammon, Under Sheriff Eric Palmer, Sheriff Bruce Haney, and Dispatcher Kathy Morrison.
Zwerdling, Bragg & Mainzer, LLP of Eureka, Calif. is listed as the county’s contact regarding the claim.
Before a lawsuit may be filed against a public agency, claims such as these must be formally submitted to the agency, in this case the county, and rejected.