McFarland v. State of Washington D.O.C.

Case type: Government liability, Wrongful Death
Award
: $6.3 million Verdict
Attorneys
: Jack Connelly

Case Summary

This case involves the murder of Meeka Willingham by dangerous parolee John Eggers. Meeka, the 17 year old daughter of Plff Sylvia McFarland, was stabbed 56 times with a knife taken from the McFaraland kitchen. The man who killed her, Johnny Eggers, was a sexual psychopath who had raped a number of women previously and who had violated five previous paroles. Despite this information DSHS acted negligently, continually releasing Eggers into the public and allowing the death of Meeka WIllingham.

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Case Details

Psychiatric evaluations revealed that he (1) was certain to reoffend; (2) was not safe to be at large; (3) his violence was escalating; (4) was not amenable to treatment, and his sexual fantasies had reached a point where he was aroused more by the thought of violence and sex with dead women than by sexual activity itself.

Notwithstanding this information, the state decided to parole him from a life term. He was so dangerous, no one would take him except Lincoln Park Work Release in Tacoma. Eggers began attending classes at Tacoma Community House where he met Sylvia McFarland, Meeka's mother. He lied to Sylvia about his background and told her he needed work. Sylvia invited him home to perform odd jobs for her and the neighbors. He was invited to family events and became a friend of the family. Eggers was due to be released from parole in July 1993. Shortly before his release his began having LSD flashbacks, exploding at work, was terminated and determined unemployable because of his psychological problems. He began drinking and using drugs. He was accused of molesting a child in a swimming pool. He reported to counselors that he was losing it and needed help.

During this period his parole officer, Def. Barbara Nelson, was not monitoring him. She had disciplinary proceedings filed against her for misappropriating another parolee's funds and was suspended from work at the time Eggers was being released. The Department of Corrections did not assign anyone else to cover her caseload, and Eggers was released into the Tacoma community. Def. Nelson also had previous disciplinary actions filed against her and had been accused of having a sexual relationship with a previous parolee, Dan Spencer. Spencer was also unsupervised and went on to murder a Tacoma citizen. Eggers reported a sexual encounter with Nelson and stated that he never was intimidated by her after that. Despite an admonition by the Intermediate Sentence Review Board that Eggers be closely monitored, Nelson did virtually no monitoring.

The week trial was scheduled to begin, the state admitted liability to prevent the facts of Eggers background and Nelson's failures from being brought before the jury. The case proceeded to trial on the issue of damages.