Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The True Story of John Raymond "Woody" Woodring

Negligence

In March 2007, Bonnie's daughter, Michelle Stojanik, filed a lawsuit against the shelter on behalf of her mother's estate. She has also become an advocate of sorts for the safety of abused and battered women. It is her hope that local governments will now force domestic violence shelters to abide by stricter rules and more thorough safety regulations.

Michelle Stojanik
Michelle Stojanik

According to documents filed with the North Carolina Superior Court, the suit alleges that the shelter, REACH of Jackson County, was negligent and failed to provide adequate security for the premises.

REACH shelter sign
REACH shelter sign

"As a result, the willful, wanton, reckless, grossly negligent and/or negligent acts of defendant [REACH] permitted a condition to exist on the property which posed an unreasonable risk of harm to people like Bonnie Woodring."

Bonnie Woodring
Bonnie Woodring

In the weeks following Bonnie's murder, many residents complained that the shelter's location was common knowledge to most people in the area. The Citizen-Times also published an article about the shelter's panic buttons. Former employees of the shelter reported that the buttons were known to malfunction, and on some occasions, did not work at all. These and other issues were addressed in the court documents pertaining to Stojanik's suit.

"The conditions that posed an unreasonable risk of harm included, but are not limited to, failing to provide adequate security, failing to provide adequate lighting, failing to monitor and maintain a secure environment, failing to provide necessary safeguards to permit tenants to live in safety, failing to have in place mechanisms and procedures that would have made the premises reasonably safe, failing to properly secure and monitor the shelter, and other facts and circumstances."

According to Michelle, Bonnie's family members remain heartbroken by their loss, and they feel Bonnie's death could have been prevented if the shelter had taken the proper precautions. On the advice of her attorney, Michelle cannot discuss the particulars of the suit.

"It is a process, but we have gotten to the point to where we are angry," Michelle said in an interview with Crime Library. "I am just doing what I think my mom would want me to do, and hopefully I can help save another woman's life. Filing the documents is just a process. I'm sure it is probably going to take awhile. To me, it is black and white, but you know how the legal system goes."

While she never intended to become an advocate for the rights of domestic violence victims, Michelle said she sees herself falling into that role.

"People are still calling me," she said. "ABC just did a report last week; they want me to go to the studio in a couple of months to discuss some of these issues. I am surprised. Anytime they talk about domestic violence or the statistics, they always mention my mom. If anything, her case and her situation may have helped save someone else."

Michelle also discussed her 13-year-old brother and how he has been coping with the emotional trauma of their mother's murder.

"I was able to talk to him a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to wait because with him being 13, I didn't know if he was ready to talk about it or not, but he did a little bit. He is going to move here, so we are very happy about that. I think it would be really good for him to be with us. There are four of us girls, and he doesn't have his mom anymore. Him and mom were like two peas in a pod, so I think it's really good that he is coming here, and we are pretty excited about that."

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