A Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit yesterday charging the Crofton Civic Association with negligence in the handling of a 1988 murder investigation, but left the door open for the suit to be reinstated against a town police officer.
Judge Eugene Lerner also dismissed the suit against four other defendants, but again left open the possibility the suit could be reinstated against two of them. The judge denied motions to dismiss the lawsuit against two other people.
The $40 million lawsuit was filed by the family of the murder victim, Chris Weathers, whose body was found buried at Fort Meade. Three people who pleaded guilty to the murder, their friends and the Crofton Police Department were named as defendants.
Loyd Dean Weathers and his wife, Donna, say they suffered severe emotional distress from the time their 17-year-old son was reported missing in September 1988 until his body was found 10 months later. They say people who knew of the crime should have come forward with information.
Three people were convicted of second-degree murder in the case; two are serving prison sentences and one is awaiting a psychiatric evaluation.
Another person was sentenced to prison for arranging to have the body moved.
The suit also charged that Crofton police Sgt. Deborah French received a letter in October 1988 saying that Chris Weathers had been murdered, but the officer refused to investigate and assured Loyd and Donna Weathers that their son would be home by that Thanksgiving.
Lerner dismissed the lawsuit against the town of Crofton, citing governmental immunity. He also dismissed the case against French, but will consider making her a defendant again if the lawyer representing the Weathers family can produce additional evidence of her liability in the case within 25 days.
That also holds true for the charges against Joseph Sr. and Gail Mikalajunas, the parents of one of the men who pleaded guilty to the killing. The parents were charged in the suit with knowing the murder would take place.
The judge dismissed outright the suit against Stacie Adams, a family friend accused with conspiracy.
Lerner declined to dismiss suits against Scott Mikalajunas and Steven Bonny, accused in the suit of moving Chris Weathers' body.
The suits against nine other defendants, including the three men who pleaded guilty to murdering Chris Weathers, were not included in yesterday's hearing and are still included in the suit.
John F. Robert, the lawyer representing the Weathers family, said he was disappointed with Lerner's ruling.
"We wouldn't have brought this suit if we didn't feel we had a good case against each and every one of these people," he said. "These people were in a position to minimize the distress to my clients. The judge said it is all right for them to do that."
Robert said he does not know if he will try to offer other evidence to get French reinstated in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit and county police say that Chris Weathers was the victim of a conspiracy because he refused to participate in a drug distribution ring.
He was killed at Fort Meade after an attempt to kill him with a drink laced with rat poisoning failed, the suit says.
Chris Weathers was killed at an old firing range off Patuxent Road, where the killers slit his throat, hit him over the head with a baseball bat and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest. He was buried in a shallow grave.
Michael Mikalajunas, Graig E. Largent and William R. Woolridge pleaded guilty to the murders.
A month later, the Mikalajunas brothers, along with Steven T. Bonney and Jeffrey J. Brubaker, moved the body to a deeper grave 20 feet away, the lawsuit says. On July 2, 1989, county police dug up Weathers' body after an informant tipped them off.