ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The last trial seeking to place blame for a 1997 school shooting in Bethel ended without a verdict Thursday when a local bus company agreed at the last minute to pay $1.1 million to the victims' families.
In February 1997, Evan Ramsey, then 16, brought a shotgun to Bethel High School and killed principal Ron Edwards and fellow student Josh Palacios.
Legal claims were filed and dismissed or settled after the shootings, including one that won workers' compensation benefits for the Edwards family, who could not sue the school district because Edwards was an employee.
All that remained were suits against the Golden Eagle bus company and one of two juveniles who allegedly knew about Ramsey's plans before the shooting, said attorney Russ Winner, who represents Edwards' widow, Cindy, and their three children.
Trial began three weeks ago in Bethel Superior Court, and the case was about to go to the jury Thursday when lawyers for Golden Eagle, owned by state Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, offered to settle for $1,102,500, Winner said.
Winner had argued to jurors that the bus driver who carried Ramsey to school that day should have seen the 4-foot shotgun stuck down his pants leg.
In a written statement Friday after the settlement, attorney Stacy Steinberg, who represented Golden Eagle, said she was confident the jury would have absolved Golden Eagle of any fault, but the bus company's insurer insisted they settle.
That left Matthew Charles, now 19, as the last civil defendant.
Charles pleaded in juvenile court in 1998 to criminally negligent homicide. Prosecutors said he knew that Ramsey planned to shoot people and helped him plan his assault. Charles' attorney, Bob Richmond, told the Bethel jury that his client was autistic and should not be held responsible for Ramsey's actions.
Jurors deliberated on the Charles case for about 15 minutes, Richmond said, then sent the judge a note that suggested they were in the process of returning a verdict favoring Charles.
At that point, Winner, representing the Edwards, agreed to dismiss the case against Charles, partly to save his client from having to pay attorneys fees if an adverse verdict was returned.
Palacios' mother, Claudia, had already settled with Charles' insurance company, Winner said.
Evan Ramsey is serving a 210-year prison sentence.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.