Local News

Progress Energy, city named in wrongful death suit

Posted August 21, 2008 4:20 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2008 9:50 p.m. EDT

— The husband of a slain Progress Energy employee who was kidnapped from a downtown Raleigh parking garage is suing the city, the utility and others for negligence in her death.

Walter Moreland filed the wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday afternoon, saying the city, which leases the garage that sits beneath Progress Energy's headquarters on South Wilmington Street, and Progress Energy failed to provide adequate security that could have prevented his wife from being abducted.

According to prosecutors, Cynthia Moreland, 48, was on her way to work at around 6:40 a.m. on Aug. 22, 2006, when Antonio Davon Chance abducted, raped and murdered her. Authorities found her body 11 days later behind an abandoned farmhouse in Harnett County.

Chance, 30, pleaded guilty to the crimes Aug. 14 and was sentenced to life in prison.

"As the employer of Ms. Moreland, Progress Energy knew or should have known that Ms. Moreland and other employees came to work early in the morning and parked in the building occupied by Progress Energy," the complaint states.

It goes on to say the security surveillance system installed in the parking garage was inadequate and lacked features of a state-of-the-art system. "This was negligent, given other modern features of the $100 million project."

The city of Raleigh was negligent, the complaint states, in that it appeared to want to boost parking revenues at the expense of security.

Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes would not talk about the lawsuit, but said the company does not own the parking garage. He also said the safety of its 2,000 employees who work and park in downtown is always a concern.

"The safety of our employees is very important to our company," he said. "We still feel the loss of Cynthia."

Calls to Raleigh's mayor, city manager and city attorney, as well as calls to other parties named in the suit, were not immediately returned Thursday.

Walter Moreland and his daughter, Keisha Mangum, declined to comment and referred any questions to his attorneys. They declined to comment, saying the complaint "speaks for itself."

Quantum Support Inc. and Security Forces Inc, as well as McLaurin Parking Co., which manages the garage, are among the defendants in the lawsuit.

The complaint says they should have been monitoring security cameras in the garage and, had they done so, would have seen Chance "walking in a suspicious direction at a suspicious time toward the place of the abduction."

Surveillance video also captured Chance driving Cynthia Moreland's Toyota Camry out of the deck.

"Reasonably attentive security would have observed a scared, well-dressed woman leaving the deck with a suspicious individual at a suspicious departure time and would have been alerted by the circumstances, but defendants had no one patrolling the area."

Cynthia Moreland's murder prompted the city, Progress Energy and McLaurin to look at increased security measures.

"It certainly was a catalyst – a very unfortunate catalyst," Hughes said. "It prompted a lot of individuals to take an interest in safety. If there is any silver lining, a lot more people are focused on safety."

Raleigh leaders established tighter security measures for downtown parking lots and garages. Among them, the Raleigh Police Department reallocated resources to put more officers in parking decks in the mornings and the evenings.

The Raleigh City Council spent more than $220,000 for a foot safety patrol in the area.