Licking County, OH – The families of a slain police chief and two other victims filed a lawsuit against the judges, courts, and probation officers who allowed the man that killed their loved ones to be released early from jail on April 12, 2017.
The lawsuit filed on May 8 on behalf of murdered Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario’s wife, Aryn DiSario, alleged that the defendants behaved recklessly when they released Thomas Hartless on probation, WSYX reported.
Hartless, a convicted batterer, had been sentenced to two more months in jail but was released early from his 90-day sentence for domestic violence.
The lawsuit alleged that probation officers skipped the required steps in the process for Hartless to be released early.
It said the probation officers failed to do their jobs properly and never made an at-home visit to Hartless.
The lawsuit said they also failed to confiscate his guns or perform a required evaluation of his behavior, WSYX reported.
"By engaging in such willful, wanton and reckless manner with complete disregard or caring about the consequences of their 'unreasonable and unacceptable' behavior, defendants have breached their duty of care and said breach is a direct and proximate cause of the death of Steven Eric DiSario,” the lawsuit from the chief’s wife alleged.
The incident that led to the murders of Chief DiSario, Hartless' former girlfriend Marlina Medrano, and nurse’s aide Cindy Krantz took place one month after the convicted domestic abuser was released from jail two months early.
On May 12, 2017, Hartless took two other people hostage at gunpoint in a wooded area behind the nursing home where his former girlfriend worked, the Associated Press reported.
Chief DiSario responded to a call for a man with a gun in the area and is believed to have encountered his killer.
The chief’s last radio communication with the dispatcher was when he said he had the suspect in sight, the Associated Press reported.
The hostages were able to escape when Hartless fired on Chief DiSario.
Responding officers found their police chief down on the street and then responded to a report of a gunman at the nearby Pine Kirk Care Center, the Associated Press reported.
Hartless entered the nursing home and fatally shot Medrano and Krantz before he took his own life, according to the Newark Advocate.
Afterwards, Municipal Court Judge Michael Higgins said Hartless never would have been released from jail if the probation system had followed its own policies and procedures, according to WSYX.
The judge is now one of the targets of the lawsuits and has been accused of “rubber-stamping” the probation department’s recommendations without evaluating what had been done in the Hartless case.
Higgins, The Licking County Municipal Court, the City of Newark, Judge David Stansbury, probation officers Steven Crawmer, Jessica Massa, Karrie Rice, and Vanessa Stalnaker, and three unknown individuals are named as defendants in all three lawsuits.
The Licking County Adult Probation Department conducted an internal investigation after the murders of Chief DiSario, Medrano, and Krantz that found mistakes made in dealing with the release of Hartless, the Newark Advocate reported.
That report is a foundational part of the lawsuits filed by the three families, serving as proof that probation officers and municipal judges’ negligence contributed to the deaths of their loved ones.
The Medrano and Krantz families, who are represented by same law firm as Aryn DiSario, filed their lawsuits on May 10, the Newark Advocate reported.
In their lawsuits, the plaintiffs alleged that by "engaging in such a willful, wanton and reckless manner with complete disregard or caring about the consequences of their 'unreasonable and unacceptable' behavior," the defendants breached their duty of care and that breach caused the deaths of the police chief and two nursing home employees.
Each of the families have sued for damages in excess of $25,000, as well as punitive damages in excess of $25,000, the Newark Advocate reported.