VALPARAISO — A Hebron couple denies contributing to a double homicide carried out on their property and pointed the finger instead at the victims and their grandson, who is charged with murder, according to court filings.
Christine and Gerald Dye said "injuries and damages are caused solely" by parties outside their control, including victims Molley Lanham and Thomas Grill Jr., and grandson Connor Kerner, according to the couple's response to a civil lawsuit blaming them for contributing to the circumstances of the deaths.
The civil claim "may be barred by the superseding and intervening intentional, negligent, reckless and/or criminal acts" of Lanham, Grill and Kerner, the couple argues.
"Defendants Gerald Dye and Christine Dye did not owe Molley Lanham a legal duty of care," they said.
The response comes in the wake of a civil lawsuit filed against the couple and Kerner's mother, Roxann Kerner, by Lanham's mother, accusing them of contributing to the circumstances leading to the Feb. 25 deaths.
Roxann Kerner also denies the allegations against her.
Christine and Gerald Dye are accused of failing to properly secure their gun or guns at their property where the shooting deaths took place.
The couple was out of town at the time of the shootings and had given Connor and Roxann Kerner access to the property at 249 W. County Road 700 South in order to care for their dog, according to the suit filed by Schererville attorney Tara Tauber.
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Lanham, 19, of St. John, drove a friend, Grill, 18, of Cedar Lake, to Dye's property on Feb. 25 to meet Connor Kerner, of Valparaiso, the suit filed in Porter County court states.
During the visit, Kerner, who was 17 at the time, is accused of shooting Grill and then beating him to death, before fatally shooting Lanham in the back of the head, police said.
The lawsuit claims the grandparents "knew or should have known that Connor Kerner had significant behavioral problems."
The suit also alleges Connor Kerner, now 18, had been involved in the sale and/or consumption of illegal drugs and "previously inflicting serious bodily injury upon another person in the fall of 2018." The behavior necessitated in him attending alternative school, according to the lawsuit.
The suit also targets Roxann Kerner, who had custody of her son, Connor, and lived with him in Valparaiso, at the time of the slayings. Indiana code imposes strict liability upon Roxann for Connor's actions that resulted in Lanham's death, according to the legal action.
The filing seeks an unspecified amount of money to compensate Lanham's estate, represented by her mother, Stacy Spejewski, for the loss. The action is permitted under the Indiana Child Wrongful Death statute, according to the suit.
Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter
Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.