The mother of a 12-year-old girl who was abducted from a Pensacola, Florida, apartment complex and murdered has reached a $2 million negligent security settlement with the property’s owner and management.

Shantara Hurry’s daughter, Naomi Jones, went missing from her Aspen Village Apartment complex in north Pensacola on May 31, 2017. Her body was found in Escambia Creek five days later.

Robert Howard, a convicted sex offender from Alabama, was arrested in connection with Naomi’s death and charged with first-degree murder. He had been living part-time with his girlfriend in the Aspen Village complex. He currently awaits trial, which has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, Howard also was convicted of two counts of rape in neighboring Escambia County, Alabama, in 1998.

Ms. Hurry filed a negligent security lawsuit against Aspen Village Acquisition LLC, the owner of the complex, and Progressive Management of America Inc. the following year. She said in a December 2018 a press conference that she would not have lived in the apartment complex had she known there was a sex offender living there too.

“I would like them to be more concerned about their children’s safety. There is no reason why a child should live and dwell somewhere and not know about the unknown dangers around them,” she told reporters at the time.

She makes the same point in her lawsuit, arguing the owner and manager of the apartment complex had a duty to know and inform residents that Howard was living on the premises. But because families who lived in Aspen Village weren’t made aware of the situation, Mr. Howard had “unfettered access” to their children and other potential victims.

Apartment communities and the companies hired to manage them usually do as little as they can get away with to ensure the safety of their tenants, Ms. Hurry’s lawyer told the News Journal. He said that monetary damages can’t bring Naomi back, but they can serve as a deterrent to similar companies that refuse to take the proper measures.

“I’m just looking for justice, all the way around, for my daughter,” Hurry said after the settlement, according to the News Journal. “No amount of money could bring my daughter back, so it’s not about anything more than just getting everyone to understand how important it is that our surroundings are safe for our children.”

Beasley Allen lawyers handle cases involving issues of premises liability and negligent security. Premises liability is the responsibility a land or property owner has for accidents, injury or other incidents that occur on his real property.

Negligent security cases normally take the form of shootings, fights, stabbings, or other physical violence (including sexual assault) where severe injury or death occurs due to the establishment owner’s failure to take reasonable safety measures. When this occurs, the establishment owner, as well as those contractors charged with security, may be held responsible for the injuries suffered by individuals or groups of individuals on the premises. For more information about these types of cases, contact Parker Miller or Donovan Potter, lawyers in our Atlanta office.

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