Lawsuit seeks $13 million from brothers who killed burglar

February 10, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Nearly three years ago, Dominic "Tony" Geckle and his brother, Matthew, sat with shotguns in their Glyndon cement company, waiting for the burglars who had hit their business the two previous nights. By the end of that third night, intruder Jonathan Steinbach was dead and his two companions were wounded.

The Geckles said they had shot in self-defense, and the community overwhelmingly supported them. A month later, a Baltimore County grand jury declined to indict the brothers.

Now there is a new challenge to Matthew and Dominic Geckle, and to their version of what happened that night.

A wrongful death and survival action lawsuit filed late last week on behalf of Steinbach's estate and 3-year-old son demands $13 million from the Geckles and their business, Back River Supply.

The lawsuit alleges that the brothers essentially laid a trap for the burglars March 19, 2001, despite a police officer's warning against doing so.

It also says that that Dominic Geckle did not shoot Steinbach in self-defense, as the business owner has said. Dominic Geckle has said that the men ran directly toward him after he shouted "freeze" and that he was afraid for his life.

The lawsuit says he shot Steinbach in the back.

"Defendant Dominic Geckle shot Steinbach as he ran away, striking him with 70 shotgun pellets," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says that after Steinbach, who lay bleeding on the floor, told Matthew Geckle that he had a newborn baby at home, Geckle told him he didn't care and beat him in the face with a shotgun butt.

Reached at the brothers' business yesterday, Dominic Geckle said he and his brother had expected the lawsuit but had not seen it and would not comment.

In a 2002 interview with The Sun, Dominic Geckle said it was unfair to blame him and his brother for the Steinbach family's grief. "Mr. Steinbach showed a total lack of regard for his loved ones," he said.

"His actions did not respect his mother, his girlfriend, his son, his entire family."

The lawsuit focuses on Steinbach's son, Jordan. It says the child has suffered because of his father's death.

"He's just a baby," said attorney Gary S. Bernstein, who represents the Steinbach estate with attorney Barry A. Cohen.

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