The family of a man allegedly killed in Limestone County by two escapees from Three Springs youth detention center sued the center and the teens this week for wrongful death.
The lawsuit was brought by the estate of Van Johnson, a construction foreman who was working at a Publix at 12070 County Line Road in Madison on Aug. 14, 2017, when, according to a Limestone County grand jury, he was beaten to death by Aaron Raynard Jones and Jakobe Isaiah Carter. Jones was 17 and Carter was 18 at the time of Johnson’s death. Both were charged with capital murder, first-degree robbery and second-degree burglary and are in the Limestone County Jail.
The teens had escaped the same day from Sequel TSI Madison, known as Three Springs, at 1329 Browns Ferry Road. Sequel TSI contracts with the Alabama Department of Youth Services to provide secure residential facilities. The Madison facility holds up to 48 males, ages 12-18. According to Youth Services, it utilizes “a cognitive behavioral approach to focus on manipulative behaviors such as impulsiveness, anger, poor self-discipline, lack of empathy, authority conflict, aggression, and poor peer relations.”
According to the lawsuit, Sequel knew its inmates were dangerous and knew they would attempt to escape. The plaintiff claims Sequel had several inmates escape in the years leading up to August 2017.
Despite this knowledge, the plaintiff claims, it allowed Three Springs “to be understaffed and lacking in proper security measures to keep dangerous inmates, such as Aaron Jones and Jakobe Carter, from escaping. As a result of this breach of duty, defendants … escaped and killed Van Johnson in Limestone County.”
According to the complaint, Johnson was from Clayton County, Georgia, and worked for Benning Construction, which was participating in a remodeling project for Publix. His work hours were from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and he was approached by the teens at about 11 p.m. in the Publix parking lot while he was retrieving tools from his truck, according to the complaint. The grocery store is about 1 mile from Three Springs.
According to the complaint, “dozens of subdivisions, thousands of homes and multiple businesses are located within 2 miles of Sequel TSI Madison.”
The indictment against Jones and Carter, filed in October 2017, alleges they killed him by “beating him to death with tools” while stealing cash, his cellphone and his keys.
No lawyer for Sequel has made an appearance in the case as and the company has not responded in court to the complaint, which was filed Wednesday. Sequel representatives did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Carter, who is now 20, has a jury trial scheduled for Nov. 18. He was indicted again last year, while in jail, for allegedly destroying the glass window on his cell door.
Jones, now 19, filed a motion for youthful offender status, which was denied in November. His trial date has not been set. Jones was indicted twice last year for destruction of property while in the Limestone County Jail.