A personal-injury lawsuit filed against the state Department of Corrections this month is the second such action brought against the agency stemming from the murder of an Edgewood man killed during a home-invasion robbery three years ago.
In April, the widow and stepson of James Sanders Sr. sued the Corrections Department, alleging its officers did not adequately supervise two felons later convicted of first-degree murder in Sanders’ death.
Charlene Sanders and Chandler Kittleman seek unspecified damages in the suit, which was filed in Pierce County Superior Court by their attorney, Stephen Bulzomi.
James Sanders Sr. died April 28, 2010, after being shot inside his home by Kiyoshi Higashi, who teamed with three other people to brutalize and rob Sanders and his family, including Charlene Sanders, Kittleman and James Sanders Jr.
The robbers gained access to the Sanders’ home by answering an ad for a diamond ring for sale that James Sanders Sr. had posted on Craigslist.
Charlene Sanders and Kittleman contend Higashi and co-defendant Joshua Reese were under state supervision at the time of the crime after being previously convicted of felonies. Both men had violated the terms of their release before Sanders’ death and should have been locked up, the lawsuit contends.
Charlene Sanders and Kittleman seek money to compensate them for “physical and mental anguish” and other damages.
In a formal answer to the suit filed in June, the Corrections Department denies wrongdoing.
The people convicted of killing 43-year-old Sanders Sr. — Higashi, Reese, Amanda Knight and Clabon Berniard — are solely to blame for his death, assistant state attorney general Patricia Fetterly wrote. The four ultimately were convicted and are serving prison terms in excess of 70 years each.
What’s more, Fetterly wrote, the supervision of Higashi and Reese was “a reasonable exercise of judgment and discretion” and not subject to legal redress.
James Sanders Jr. sued the Corrections Department earlier this month, also contending it was negligent in supervising Higashi and Reese. The department has yet to file a formal answer to that lawsuit.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644