Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

The Price of a Life

Posted January 3, 2007

How much is someone's life worth?  Your life?  Your mother's life?  Your son's life?  Can you put a price on it?  It's a question that will be answered by a Wake County jury in the coming weeks.

A young woman was brutally raped and murdered in her North Raleigh apartment in 2002.  After more than three agonizing years of waiting for a break in the case, the parents of the woman finally got some answers.  A man who lived in another apartment complex near the victim was linked to the crime through DNA.  He was subsequently arrested and charged with first degree murder.  But before the victim's family could even exhale, the suspect killed himself in prison robbing them of the ability to ever really know why the tragedy happened.

Now the woman's father is suing the apartment complex where she lived saying that they failed to protect his daughter from the killer.  Among the issues- poor lighting, shrubbery covering the windows and a broken window lock.  A peeping Thom was also seen near the woman's apartment prior to the murder. 

The family says they want other apartment complexes to take safety more seriously and hope this lawsuit will be a means to that end.   Attorneys for the apartment complex say the killer alone is responsible for the murder and it's not proper to hold their client liable for her death.

It's an emotional case- a case about a promising life cut tragically short.  It's a case about a grieving family looking for answers, looking for some sense of justice.  But ultimately, it's about the law.  Twelve jurors will have to consider the law and put their emotions aside as they consider if the apartment complex is liable.  If they answer this question with a "yes" then they have the daunting task of deciding how much the life of a 23-year-woman worth.  It's a tough question, one that I'm glad I don't have to answer.

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  • uncw05 Jan 3, 2007

    I think apartment complexes should be held responsible for taking "reasonable" steps towards renter's safety. There is only so much that they can do, but many are taking more steps. I had to sign a form stating I had checked all window and door locks when I moved in. They do their part, but I also have to do mine, by locking those doors, not wandering around in poorly lighted/private areas at night. I don't feel like I'm 100% safe here, but I'm no less safe here than in my parents front yard. Unless true negligence on the part of the apt complex can be proven, they shouldn't loose money (through penalties, lawyer fees or bad publicity that comes from a trial.) over it.

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