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Mother Files Suit Over Claes Murder

Courts: Tustin schools and slaying suspects are named in wrongful-death action. The teenager was killed a year ago.

May 18, 1996|DEBORAH SCHOCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One year after the murder of 14-year-old Carl Dan Claes, his mother has brought a lawsuit against the Tustin Unified School District, the teenagers charged with killing him and others allegedly associated with the eighth-grader's death.

Claes' body was found a year ago Friday in a Lemon Heights ditch, a bullet wound in the head. Two teenagers face trial on charges of murder in his death, which authorities say ensued during a dispute over Claes' $2,500 sound system.

Attorneys for the boy's mother, Danella George, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, claiming that negligence by school officials, the other youths' parents and other factors contributed to Claes' death.

The suit states that Claes was diagnosed at age 8 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and that Tustin school officials knew his condition needed special attention and supervision. The condition can cause a child to be overly gullible, the suit states.

But although Claes informed a teacher on or about May 11, 1995, that a number of kids "were out to get him," the district took no action and did not notify the boy's grandfather when he visited the school for a May 12 conference about Claes' progress, the suit states.

"Tustin Unified School District failed to provide the special educational services it was required to provide to Carl Dan Claes and generally failed to fulfill its lawful duty to Carl Dan Claes, leading to his being shot and dying," it states.

Administrators with the district could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

The suit names two teenagers who have been ordered to stand trial in the murder: Thomas Miller, who allegedly shot Claes, and Jason Merritt. It claims that Miller, Merritt and four other youths entered into a conspiracy to murder Claes and steal his sound equipment, wallet and pager.

The suit also claims that Miller's father and other parents not named in the suit had a duty to control their children to prevent the risk of bodily harm to others, but that those parents failed to reasonably control their children.

Said Edwin B. Brown, an attorney representing Claes' mother: "Based on our information, we believe the parents could and should have done more."

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