The family of murder victim Erica Reed has brought suit against the Covington Housing Authority. Their argument: if convicted murderer Willie Gunn had not been allowed to live there, Reed would be alive today.
Nearly three years ago, 20-year-old Erica Reed was shot and killed while visiting her sister at the housing authority. The man charged and convicted of her death, 70-year-old Willie Gunn, was a tenant there at the time. According to the Reed family, the housing authority was negligent in allowing Gunn to live there since he had been convicted of murder before and had at least four felony convictions under his belt as well.
According to the attorney for the Reed family, Andy Rogers, the family also alleges that the housing authority was negligent in their hiring, training and supervision of the executive director and other employees responsible for making decisions on which applicants were eligible to live there.
Rogers said that evidence shows when Gunn filled out his application to live at the housing authority, he reportedly said he had never been arrested or convicted of any crime, but in 1963 he was convicted and sentenced for the murder of 15-year-old Mae Pitts. Seven years later he was released from prison and had worked in the past for the county at one of their recycling centers.
Although the housing authority requested a criminal history from authorities, as
it does with all applicants, according to Rogers, Gunn’s conviction for murder would not have shown up on the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) because the system began operating in 1973 – a decade after Gunn’s convictions.
"There is some dispute as to whether they had that information at the time of the application," said Rogers. "Our contention is that he should have never been allowed to live at or been on the property. Had he not been allowed to live there Ms. Reed would still be alive today, taking care of her two little boys."
The Reed family filed the lawsuit against the housing authority in early 2008 and is currently on the trial schedule for October. Rogers says that in suing the housing authority the Reed family is simply looking for justice for Erica and her children, ages 4 and 5 who, he said, have been robbed of the "love, companionship and care of their mother."
"Frankly Mr. Gunn is not the only person who lived there that should not have been living there," said Rogers. "Our hope is that in addition to Ms. Reed’s family getting justice that the housing authority is interested in reviewing and changing the way they review applications and decide who is allowed to live on the property.
"We would like them to just follow their own guidelines," he continued. "That would be a nice start."
The attorney for the housing authority was contacted but as of press time, had not commented on the situation.