A jury has levied damages of nearly $6.3 million against the state for failing to adequately supervise a parolee who fatally stabbed a Stadium High School student.
Johnny Eggers stabbed 17-year-old Meeka Willingham 56 times at her family’s Tacoma home on Aug. 19, 1994. Eggers, who had befriended the family, was watching the home while Willingham’s mother was away tending to a sick relative.
Willingham was staying at a relative’s house but returned home to watch videos and fell asleep before Eggers attacked her.
Eggers is serving a life prison term for murdering the teen.
Willingham’s mother, Sylvia McFarland, said she hoped the Pierce County jury’s large award Wednesday would make a point with the state.
“I just hope this sends a message to the state that the parole people need to do their jobs better,” she said.
The state admitted liability in the case - a tactical move that kept the jury from hearing the plaintiff’s contentions that Eggers was poorly supervised and lightly punished for his prior crimes.
Assistant attorney general Glen Anderson said the state was disappointed in the size of the damage award but respected the jury’s verdict. In closing arguments, Anderson had suggested an award of less than $500,000 would be appropriate.
McFarland said she intends to use part of the money to fund scholarships for low-income students and to help disadvantaged youths who can’t afford the uniforms and training needed to be cheerleaders, as her daughter was.
She said she will also help pay for plastic surgery for crime victims disfigured by attacks.