Chardon High School shooting victims' families sue United Way over Chardon Healing Fund

Families claim to receive 15 percent of funds

CHARDON, Ohio - The families of the three teens killed in the Chardon High School shooting last year are suing the United Way.

On Feb. 27, 2012, TJ Lane opened fire in the school's cafeteria, killing Daniel Parmertor, 16; Demetrius Hewlin, 17, and Russell King Jr., 17. Lane pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Less than 24 hours after the shooting, the Chardon Healing Fund was created to benefit the victims' families. On the day the fund was announced, Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Joe Bergant said 100 percent of the money raised would go to helping those directly affected by the tragedy.

But court documents filed in Geauga County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday claim the families have received a small fraction of the money.

"A total $952,000 has been donated to the Trust and the total amount received by all of the Plaintiffs is less than $150,000. In other words, only about 15% of the Trust has been collectively distributed to Plaintiffs," the suit said.

In February, board members of the Chardon Healing Fund told NewsChannel5 that nearly half of the $952,000 collected had been given to the six families affected by the shooting.

The defendants named in the suit are the United Way of Greater Cleveland, the United Way of Geauga County and the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services. The suit said the United Way set aside up to $250,000 for mental health services from the board of health.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is also named. While his office would not comment on the pending litigation, they added that if a lawsuit deals with changes to a charitable account, then the attorney general's office becomes a "necessary party."

According to court documents, the families requested money from the Chardon Healing Fund, which is maintained by the United Way, but those requests were denied.

On Monday, the United Way said the Chardon Healing Fund was created to help with long-term recovery of the Chardon High School community. The organization also said the fund has been managed "in an open and transparent manner."

"All of the funds, 100%, are going to meet the charitable mission of the Chardon Healing Fund to benefits the healing of the community. The fund distributed more than $417,000 to the six families of children killed or injured by the tragedy. This includes paying bills, making home modifications and providing counseling and supportive services as needed," the United Way said.

The group said the specific uses of the money are confidential. [Read the full statement here:]

In the lawsuit, the families said they want a list of all the requests for funds and whether they were approved, money distributed in accordance with the Chardon Healing Fund's intended purpose and the United Way suspended from managing the account.

There have been other lawsuits filed involving the high school shooting. Earlier this month, survivor Nick Walczak, who was shot four times and paralyzed, filed a civil suit for personal injury against Lane.

The families of Parmertor, Hewlin and King also sued the shooter, his parents and grandparents.

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