Drew Edward Planten, 35, of Raleigh, was arrested last week and charged with first-degree murder in the May 2002 death of Stephanie Renee Bennett, who was found gagged, strangled, raped and dead in her North Raleigh apartment, investigators said.
The lawsuit filed by Carmon Bennett, Stephanie's father, claims Bridgeport Apartments could have prevented the crime.
The suit claims the shrubbery was too high, the exterior lighting was poor and one of Stephanie's windows did not lock at the apartment complex. It claims these conditions allowed the suspect to climb into Stephanie's window undetected.
"Our case is centered on the fact that there was a suspicious person out there and unsafe conditions," Charles Bentley, Carmon Bennett's attorney, said.
The lawsuit also claims the complex ignored a report of a peeping Tom lurking outside Stephanie's window three weeks before the murder. Police said that man was Planten.
"It's really a combination of having a vicious criminal attracted into this environment that acted as sort of a magnet for someone like this," Bentley said.
Bentley added that Planten's arrest on Oct. 19 confirmed what the family believed all along: that someone who lived near Stephanie targeted her.
Planten lived at the Dominion Apartments, a short distance from where Bennett lived at Bridgeport Apartments on Lake Lynn Drive. Only a tree line separated the two complexes.
Police said a male entered Stephanie's apartment through a window during the night, and raped and killed her.
Bentley said the goal of the lawsuit was to make sure what happened to Stephanie does not happen to another young woman.
The lawsuit asks for compensation for the pain and suffering Stephanie endured. It is scheduled to be heard in federal court in Raleigh on Dec. 13.
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