Caldwell's lawyer says shooting is Trachsel's fault

October 31, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

The lawyer for a Danville man accused of gunning down his neighbor in a property dispute argues that his client should not be held responsible for the death in a civil lawsuit filed by the dead man's widow.

Attorney Ephraim Helton, who represents Jack Caldwell Sr. and several family members, maintained in a response filed Friday in Boyle Circuit Court that James Trachsel's death was caused by his own actions.

"... the alleged injuries and damages claimed by the plaintiff, if any, were caused and brought about, in whole and/or in part, by the negligence and/or intentional acts of James D. Trachsel," Helton states as one of several defenses to the wrongful death claim filed earlier this month by Bonnie Trachsel.

Helton asks that the case be dismissed.

Caldwell, 79, is charged with murder in the shooting James Trachsel to death on Aug. 22, while he was mowing his lawn on Boone Trail. Police say Caldwell shot his next-door neighbor five times with a .22-caliber rifle over a long-running dispute concerning property lines and drainage issues.


Caldwell pleaded not guilty and Helton said that his client shot Trachsel in self-defense when he startled Caldwell from behind on his riding lawnmower near the property boundary the two men share. Caldwell was carrying the rifle in his yard because he was hunting for a skunk that had been seen in the area, Helton said.

Bonnie Trachsel is asking for an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages for pain and suffering, loss of her husband's income, and medical and funeral expenses. The lawsuit alleges that Caldwell acted "willfully and intentionally and with malice and oppression" when he shot Trachsel.

Along with claiming Trachsel is to blame for the shooting, Helton also argues that "the theory of self-defense" protects his client from Bonnie Trachsel's complaint.

In her lawsuit, Bonnie Trachsel alleges that Caldwell and his wife illegally transferred their interest in their Boone Trail property to their children for less than fair market value shortly after the shooting so that it could not be used to satisfy any settlement.

In his response, Helton argues that the property transfer was valid because it was sold at a fair market price of $110,000 and the sale was not intended to delay any attempt to collect upon a claim.

Caldwell, who is in poor health, has posted a $250,000 cash bond and is living with a son in Lancaster.

A date has not been set for either the criminal or civil trial.

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