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Woman Sues O.C. Man Indicted in Her Mother's Slaying

October 06, 1995|J.R. MOEHRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The daughter of a Laguna Hills woman who was raped and killed last October has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the 24-year-old carpet installer charged with the crime.

Christine Hougan, the victim's only daughter, filed suit in Orange County Superior Court seeking unspecified damages from Eric Wayne Bennett, as well as the carpet company that employed him and the homeowners association at the condominium development where her mother lived.

Bennett was indicted in January in connection with the slaying of 50-year-old Marie Evans Powell, who had lived in the condominium just six weeks.

The charge includes special circumstances, meaning the crime occurred during a rape and burglary. As a result, Bennett faces the death penalty, or life in prison without parole, if he is convicted.

The trial of Bennett, whose lawyer has insisted on his innocence, is scheduled for December.

Police say Bennett allegedly sodomized and bludgeoned Powell, who was found in her bathrobe on the lower level of her two-bedroom condominium, in the 22400 block of Caminito Tecate, last Oct. 14.

Twice before the slaying, Bennett had visited Powell's condominium to install carpet.

In her lawsuit, Hougan charges Bennett's employer, Mike's Carpet Emporium, with failing to "appropriately control, manage, hire, investigate or otherwise supervise" Bennett.

The lawsuit alleges that the carpet store knew or should have known that Bennett often telephoned customers late at night and tried to talk his way into their houses.

Bennett, the suit contends, was sent to "unsuspecting customers' homes to install tile which, among other things, [he] used as a means and a method to 'case,' explore and investigate places in order to commit crimes."

In addition, Hougan contends that the Laguna Village homeowners association and its security patrol were negligent because they failed to warn Powell that "criminal activity had occurred in and around the common areas of the Homeowner's Association and that, among other things, women residents would be likely victims of sexual assault."

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