CHARDON -- The families of the three boys murdered by convicted killer T.J. Lane sued the trustees of the Chardon Healing Fund Tuesday, claiming they are refusing to release additional money to the families, even though the fund is flush with cash.
The lawsuit alleges that the United Way of Greater Cleveland and the United Way of Geauga County have breached their duty in administering the fund, which has accumulated about $952,000 in donations following the February 2012 shooting in the Chardon High School cafeteria.
The families of Demetrius Hewlin, Daniel Parmertor and Russell King, Jr. have received about $150,000 from the fund, although a number of requests for money have been denied, said Attorney Todd McKenney, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families.
That support ended in February 2013 when the fund's trustees notified the families that they were being cut off and would receive no additional money, he said.
The notification came about the same time that Lane pleaded guilty to murdering the boys.
"They've been told that their needs have been met," said McKenney, who is overseeing the Hewlin estate. "These are not easy claims to bring and certainly not for these families, who have been cared for by the community."
The families also want an accounting of how the trustees have managed the fund.
In a statement, United Way Services of Geauga County said it is confident that the fund has been "managed in an open and transparent manner."
"The fund distributed more than $417,000 to the six families of children killed or injured by the tragedy," the statement noted. "This includes paying bills, making home modifications and providing counseling and supportive services as needed."
United Way also said the trustees are following the fund's mission to address the needs of the Chardon community by holding educational sessions on trauma, providing intensive treatment at Chardon High School and partially funding a school resource officer there.
The families also want to stop a $250,000 payment to provide free or reduced cost mental health treatments by the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services.
The agency is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
McKenney said the $250,000 is intended to help anyone who needs it, not just those affected by the shooting. "We want the judge to determine if this was fair or not," McKenney said.