It only took 10 minutes today for U. S. District Court Judge Gary Fenner to approve a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by survivors of eight-year-old Braxton Wooden who was shot to death while in the foster care of an Alba couple.
Court records indicate the only two people called as witnesses during the hearing were Braxton's mother, Brandie McLean, and his great aunt Rhonda Stone, who testified as representatives of Braxton's siblings.
The document, filed earlier today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, indicated Ms. McLean testified for five minutes and Ms. Stone for two.
Details of the settlement were not included in the court records.
The lawsuit was originally filed Aug. 26, 2005, in Jasper County Circuit Court by Ms. McLean. Braxton was in the care of Mark and Treva Gordon, Alba, when he was shot to death by their 15-year-old son, Ethan. Ethan Gordon is also a defendant in the lawsuit, as are Social Services caseworkers John McGinnis and Mickey Morgan. A notice or removal to federal court was filed last week.
According to the petition, "Ethan Gordon knew or should have known that the gun was loaded with ammunition."
Mark and Treva Gordon owned the 38 caliber Smith and Wesson gun that killed Braxton Wooden, as well as other weapons and ammunition, the petition said. "Weapons, specifically firearms, were accessible to the children in the foster home in violation of state foster care regulations and Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division policy."
The petition continued, "Mark and Treva Gordon knew or should have known the location in which they kept the gun was accessible to the minor child," and that Ethan Gordon "was not mature enough to exercise the proper degree of care in the use and control of the gun."
Ms. Morgan and her McGinnis, who was her manager and supervisor, were also responsible for Braxton Wooden's death, the lawsuit said, because they failed to determine "that Mark and Treva Gordon were unfit persons to act as foster parents."
The caseworkers also failed to "monitor" and to provide "adequate supervision and caseworker services to Braxton Deshawn Wooden," the petition said.
It also said the caseworkers failed to investigate whether hazardous items were accessible to children. The petition says, "Braxton Deshawn Wooden was subject to physical and emotional deprivation" and he suffered "severe and violent injuries," and was "subject to extreme emotional and psychological distress in that he suffered and endured an unstable family environment, humiliation, mental anguish and fear."
The state workers were "negligent, careless, grossly negligent, imprudent and reckless and totally without thought as to the safety and welfare of others and with complete indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others," the petition said.