MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — The family of a suburban New York teacher killed and dismembered in her home by a neighbor high on cocaine settled a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday with a therapist who allowed the killer to be released on a weekend pass from an upstate mental health facility.
State Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow approved a $500,000 settlement between the family of Denice Fox and David P. Gureasko-Moore, a psychologist who had treated convicted killer Evan Marshall at the SLS residential treatment facility in Brewster.
Marshall, now 40, pleaded guilty in 2007 to killing the retired New York City special education teacher a year earlier in an exclusive gated community in Glen Cove, on Long Island's Gold Coast.
Marshall said he was searching for money to buy drugs when he confronted Fox, 57, in her home, repeatedly stabbing her. He later dismembered Fox's body, stashing the remains in his basement trash. He was arrested the next day with her head in his car trunk as he returned to the crime scene.
He had been home on a weekend pass from the SLS facility when the killing occurred, officials said. Winslow noted on Tuesday that Marshall had consumed "substantial amounts of cocaine" before committing the killing.
Marshall is serving 30 years to life.
Fox's family, which had complained that Marshall should have been sentenced to life without parole, claimed releasing Marshall for the weekend was inappropriate because he was a danger to the community. Since the lawsuit was filed in 2008, several defendants have been removed from the case for various reasons. Winslow noted Tuesday that SLS "has no assets, including insurance." A court filing noted SLS "is no longer conducting any business."
A call to the state Office of Mental Health regarding SLS's status was not immediately returned.
Robert Weis, an attorney for SLS, declined to comment. An attorney for Moore, Michael Sullivan, was out of the country and unable to comment, said a colleague at his law firm.
No one from the Fox family attended Tuesday's proceeding.
"We're very pleased with the judge's decision and we hope that this brings some closure to the Fox family," said John S. Craig, an attorney for Fox's widower, Jay, and her two adult children.
The judge complained bitterly during his ruling that SLS was not being held responsible in some way for what happened.
"This court finds that the conduct and protocol of private institutions in not being accountable and accepting responsibility for non-criminal mental health issues, including substance abuse, is a present and growing concern," he said.
"Accountability for procedures adopted or utilized by an institution such as SLS cannot be less than that of a hotel," the judge said. "Accountability must also include appropriate financial responsibility, including having insurance for and on behalf of the residents, for the mistakes or errors that inevitably arise. There appears to be greater accountability driving a car than operating SLS."