The mother of Keenya Cook, first victim of D.C.-area snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, has filed a lawsuit against the pair, seeking to seize any profits they might gain from their fame.
The complaint, filed Friday in Pierce County Superior Court by Pamala Nichols, also seeks unspecified damages from Tacoma resident Earl Dancy Jr., 35, who owned the gun used to shoot Cook.
Malvo, 18, has admitted killing Cook, and told police and psychiatrists that Muhammad sent him to commit that killing as a test. Prosecutors in Pierce County say they have not decided whether to charge Malvo for Cook's death.
During Muhammad's murder trial in Virginia, Dancy admitted loaning weapons to Muhammad and Malvo when they stayed with him briefly in early 2002.
"He admitted that he loaned the gun that was used to murder Keenya Cook. We think that's negligent," said Nichols' attorney, Ben Barcus.
Nichols filed the suit on behalf of Cook's daughter, Angeleah Rogers, now 2 years old.
Barcus agreed that Muhammad and Malvo are unlikely to have any assets worth seizing. One faces the death penalty, the other a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
But Barcus pointed out that books and films are likely to emerge from the notorious sniper case. If Muhammad and Malvo see any profit from that, he said, it should go to their victims.
"The primary focus is to have some kind of provision for this little girl," Barcus said. "She doesn't have a mother now."
The suit hinges on a legal concept called "negligent entrustment," typically cited in cases involving borrowed vehicles used in crimes. Barcus argues that Dancy knew or should have known that loaning weapons to Muhammad could harm someone else.
Dancy, who could not be reached for comment, also faces possible charges for illegally buying a Remington 700 rifle on Muhammad's behalf in 2002. Muhammad, 43, could not legally possess a gun because he was the subject of a domestic violence protective order.
Dancy has admitted he illegally bought the rifle for Muhammad. Dancy is under investigation by federal agents for making that purchase, but no charges have been filed, and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle would not comment on the investigation.
A pair of Parkland men stumbled across the rifle in mid-August 2002, finding it in a sniper's nest apparently abandoned by Muhammad and Malvo only moments before. The rifle was set up on a bipod and aimed at a nearby apartment complex.
Dancy has admitted reporting the weapon to Fife police as stolen, at Muhammad's request.
The Nichols complaint does not name Bull's Eye Shooter Supply, the Tacoma gun shop where Dancy bought the Remington 700 and where Muhammad and Malvo reportedly stole the Bushmaster rifle used in the East Coast shootings.
Barcus said no known link exists between the shop and the .45-caliber handgun used to shoot Cook.
"They didn't sell the gun," he said. "We don't have any information that Bull's Eye was in any way involved with this weapon."
Other families of sniper victims have filed suit against Bull's Eye and the Bushmaster company. That case, still in the discovery stages, is not related to the complaint filed by Nichols.
"Their case is very much different than our case," Barcus said. "Much more complicated."
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486