Florida Woman Sues Motel Over Chainsaw Attack

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – The elderly victim of a random chainsaw attack at a Florida Super 8 has filed a negligent security lawsuit claiming the assault was the latest fiasco in an unchecked, years-long saga of disturbing incidents at the motel.

Local resident Marie Geffrard, 65, was walking on a sidewalk next to the Super 8 in Lantana, Fla., when a guest of the motel approached with a chainsaw in hand.

Geffrard initially thought the man was a landscaper, but as he kept creeping closer, panic set in. He proceeded to allegedly attack Geffrard with the black Stihl chainsaw for no apparent reason, partially severing her hand and leaving her covered in blood with a gaping wound in her chest. She was taken to a local hospital where doctors performed surgery to reattach the hand.

Upon arriving at the scene, an officer found the alleged attacker,  Juan Carlos Cabrera, standing in front of his Nissan Versa, near the motel lobby entrance. During a subsequent police interview, Cabrera, 21, gave no rationale for why he chose to attack Geffrard that morning, other than to say she was the “target most attractive to his eyes,” according to the police report. He purportedly told officers that in the past, he had been subject to involuntary commitment, and that he believed he had some kind of mental breakdown before carrying out the attack.

Officers noted that Cabrera had allegedly tried to keep marring Geffrard with the chainsaw, but that it jammed up. Her hair was found around the chainsaw housing.

In a lawsuit filed against West Palm Hotels LLC — the motel operator — the victim maintains that the attack was not a simple, isolated case of a man who  managed to check into the Super 8 in an unhinged state.

According to Geffrard’s attorneys at Dimond, Kaplan and Rothstein PA, a lack of security at the property has made it a magnet for violent, sometimes appalling crimes. The suit says “there have been thousands of calls for police service at the motel” in the last few years. The property lacks basic security measures in spite of past shootings, rapes, armed robberies and assaults, the lawsuit alleges.

As noted in the lawsuit, Lantana police chief Sean Scheller has publicly expressed concerns about the hotel’s safety in light of violent crime on the premises. In a 2015 Palm Beach Post article about the hotel, Chief Scheller reportedly said he met with the motel management about crime-reduction measures, but that they did not heed his recommendations. He is quoted in the Post article as saying, “They want to fill rooms. They don’t care who they fill them with.”

Much of the motel’s crime issues covered in local media coverage have stemmed from reports of prostitution and drug dealing. Last May, a man who allegedly used the hotel as a base was arrested on sex-trafficking charges. The Post noted that there had been at least 3 shootings on the premises between 2005 and 2015.

A manager for the Super 8 has not responded to a request for comment.

Cabrera is facing charges of attempted first degree murder, as well as battery for allegedly beating an officer with a cell key snatched while in custody. He is also charged with stealing the chainsaw from his employer shortly before his stay in the motel.

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