Families of 2010 slaying victims sue businesses

Richard Freeman

Richard Freeman

Gregory Hover

Gregory Hover

Family members of two Las Vegans slain during a 2010 crime spree have now sued two businesses they claim share responsibility for the deaths.

Two lawsuits have been filed seeking unspecified damages over the killings in separate incidents of Hooters hotel-casino waitress Prisma Contreras, 21, and resident Julio Romero, 64.

Two men, Gregory Hover and Richard Freeman, are awaiting trial in both killings.

The pair were arrested in connection with the Jan. 14, 2010, kidnapping, sexual assault and killing of Contreras, who had been kidnapped during a carjacking in the Hooters’ parking lot after her shift, and in a robbery at the home of Romero and his wife on Jan. 25, 2010.

Police say the suspected gunman in the Romero case, Hover, shot and killed Romero and shot and injured his wife. Police said that as a legal process server, he had visited the home earlier in the day in an attempt to serve papers on a party who, it turns out, wasn’t there.

In the Romero lawsuit, attorneys for the dead man’s widow, Roberta, and a daughter, Claudia Romero, sued Hover and Freeman on Jan. 20, alleging wrongful death.

They also sued Hover’s employer, Junes Legal Services Inc., alleging negligent hiring, training and supervision of Hover.

"Junes owed a duty to plaintiffs to hire responsible employees with proper moral character and background to perform their work responsibly without invading the rights of (the Romeros)," the suit alleges.

Attorneys for Junes responded to the lawsuit last week, writing in their reply that "At the time of the acts as alleged … neither defendant Hover nor Freeman were acting in the course and scope of employment with Junes Legal Services, and therefore, Junes Legal Services cannot be held legally liable for their acts."

That lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court, appears to be headed toward the discovery stage, and there’s no indication in the court record when it may be resolved.

In the Contreras case, attorneys for the victim’s husband, Jose Gonzalez, her daughter Paloma Gonzalez and her sister Denise Espitia filed suit Jan. 4 in the same court against Hover, Freeman and the Hooters hotel-casino.

The lawsuit accused Hooters of negligence, of failing to have adequate security on the premises when Contreras was kidnapped and of breaching its duty to keep members of the public and employees safe from the "negligent and/or criminal acts of third persons."

Hooters, however, was dismissed from the lawsuit Jan. 31 because of complications related to the hotel-casino’s bankruptcy that was filed last summer.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Code bars lawsuits against bankrupt entities unless special permission is granted by the bankruptcy court for suits.

Records at U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Nevada show attorneys for the family members of Contreras have now agreed with Hooters that the family can prosecute its claims against the hotel-casino, but with the understanding "claimants shall look exclusively to insurance coverage, to the extent such proceeds are available, and not from debtors or any of their property or assets."

One potential avenue for a financial recovery for the family, records show, is pursuing a workers’ compensation insurance claim that would assert the death of Contreras was caused by a workplace incident or injury.