Clark County

Winchester apartment complex where EKU student died was poorly secured, lawsuit alleges

Amber Caudill
Amber Caudill Herald-Leader

The parents of an Eastern Kentucky University sophomore who was shot to death have filed a lawsuit saying her apartment complex lacked security and was susceptible to criminal activity.

The lawsuit was filed last month in Clark Circuit Court by Marcus and Karen Caudill, parents and co-administrators of the estate of Amber Caudill, 19.

She died Dec. 23, 2014, died after a gunfight occurred in the apartment above hers at Summit Apartments on Oxford Drive in Winchester. One of the bullets went through the ceiling of Caudill’s apartment and struck her, police said. The pre-art design major died at the scene as a result of injuries from the bullet.

The lawsuit says that Verdure LLC, the Louisville company that owns the Winchester apartment complex, had a “duty to protect its tenants from reasonable foreseeable risks of danger.” A spokesman for Verdure could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The suit says Summit Apartments “have poorly secured premises with a heightened susceptibility to criminal activity taking place on the premises.”

For example, the suit alleges that there “is no barrier fence, no access gate, or security check,” and that there “are no cameras to record or deter criminal activity from taking place on the premises.”

The suit says Verdure failed to maintain safe and secure premises such as “appropriate barriers to ingress and egress of the property as a whole and individual buildings,” a well-illuminated parking lot, security cameras, security personnel and other measures to ensure safety.

The suit also alleges that Verdure had negligent rental practices. The suit says the company had a duty to its tenants to “perform background checks on potential tenants, not rent to a person that creates a risk of danger to other tenants, … to evict any violent and/or criminal tenants from the premises, not to allow tenants to engage in criminal activities on the premises, and to investigate and appropriately deal with any disturbances caused by tenants.”

The suit alleges that the occupant of the apartment above Caudill’s was “known to possess illegal drugs” and carry a loaded firearm.

“Four people, aware of the drugs on the premises, viewed that residence in the Summit Apartments as a location with easy access, negligent security, and minimal obstacles to successfully committing an armed home invasion,” the suit says.

That is a reference to the four people charged in connection with the home invasion that resulted in the gunfight and death of Caudill.

Christopher Robinson, 20, was indicted on charges of murder, first-degree burglary and two counts of first-degree assault. Lamont Wilkerson, 21, Aaron Stailey, 19, and Lillian Barnett, 19, were charged with complicity to murder, complicity to first-degree burglary and complicity to first-degree assault.

Barnett allegedly drove the three men to the apartment complex, and then Robinson, Wilkerson and Stailey, armed and wearing ski masks, forced their way into the apartment where Justin Meadows and Crayvone Ritchie were. Winchester police say a gunfight ensued and a stray bullet went through the floor and struck Caudill in the apartment below.

The four defendants are scheduled for trial on May 2 in Winchester.

Caudill’s parents seek a trial by jury in their civil suit, and “any and all relief” to which the estate is entitled.