KODIAK (AP) A Kodiak woman has won a wrongful death lawsuit against the man last seen with her 16-year-old daughter before the girl disappeared in 1998.
U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick ruled last week that Ronald Tennison, 33, was responsible for the death of Jonnie Renee White, said attorney Scott Sterling. Tennison did not appear in court to defend himself against the suit.
Sterling, who represented the girl's mother, Delilah Jane Bond, said the judge awarded $1.5 million in damages.
White disappeared while on a camping trip with Tennison and his former girlfriend, Sharon Dawson Raikoglo, 33. Neither Tennison nor Raikoglo have ever faced criminal charges in White's death.
The wrongful death ruling against Tennison comes two months after a similar ruling against Raikoglo.
White was legally declared dead in July 2000, two years after she disappeared.
White had gone on a camping trip July 18, 1998, with the couple to Pasagshak State Recreation Site, south of Kodiak. She went along to baby-sit Raikoglo's toddler.
Tennison told Alaska State Troopers that White accompanied him in his pickup truck to collect firewood around midnight July 18.
The vehicle reportedly became stuck on the beach, and the pair decided to sleep in the truck until daylight. When he awoke at 10 a.m, White was gone, according to Tennison's statement.
In the civil trial, prosecutors needed only a preponderance of evidence to win the wrongful death suit. A criminal trial would have required evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction.
Sterling said Tennison's failure to appear in court and comply with court requests made the ruling against him easier.
Tennison is now living in Arkansas, where he is married and working as a heating and air technician.
The Kodiak Daily Mirror contacted him at his residence, but he declined to comment on the ruling.
Tennison had been represented by Anchorage law firm Ingaldson Maasen, but the representation was terminated earlier this year, said Alice Roberts, the Anchorage clerk of court. Roberts said Tennison has not filed paperwork to inform the Anchorage court of new legal counsel.
Sterling said not only did Tennison fail to appear in court, but he also failed to file pretrial documents.
''He defaulted,'' Sterling said.
The $1.5 million awarded Bond and White's estate includes interest, attorney fees and additional costs. Sterling said he will attempt to collect the sum.
''I'm going to pursue the judgment,'' Sterling said. ''He can pay the money, or live life under the shadow of the judgment.''
Sterling said the ruling is a success, but Bond and her family remain deeply saddened by White's disappearance.
''They take no great pleasure in the ruling,'' Sterling said. ''It is merely a way of attempting to get justice done the way our system allows.''
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