Family of murder victim sues Madison detention center over juveniles' escape

The family of 61-year-old Van Johnson says the facility was negligent and understaffed.

Posted: Aug 9, 2019 7:17 PM

The family of a man police say was killed by two juveniles who escaped from a Madison detention center has filed a lawsuit against the facility.

Jakobe Carter and Aaron Jones both escaped from Sequel TSI, also known as Three Springs, back in 2017. After they escaped, they were charged with capital murder after police say they robbed and killed Van Johnson.

Johnson's two sons have not rested since then, and they're hoping this lawsuit brings about change so that another family doesn't have to go through the tragic loss they did.

"How are these juveniles escaping is what we want to know, because it keeps happening," the family's attorney, Derek Simpson, said.

Simpson is representing Lee Austin Johnson, on behalf of his father's estate. The lawsuit makes several claims regarding Sequel TSI's negligence when it comes to housing violent juveniles in their Madison facility.

It says they owed a duty to Johnson and the people of Madison to use care and proper security measures to prevent juveniles from escaping, and they should have known the inmates at Sequel TSI were violent and could attempt to escape and injure people.

Simpson says they've been investigating the facility since Johnson was killed and learned from former employees the facility was not properly managed.

"They're not properly staffed, they're not properly trained, they cant keep up with all the people that are there, and that it's not properly secured," he said.

The lawsuit also claims Sequel TSI had at least four inmates escape the facility before Johnson was killed.

"These violent juveniles are free to come and go as they please," Simpson said.

He said the timing of the lawsuit has nothing to do with the three inmates who recently escaped in July, but says the family has heard about it and wants to know why this keeps happening.

"There were inmates escaping before Mr. Johnson was killed, then these inmates escaped and killed Mr. Johnson, and they have done nothing to correct it," Simpson said.

He says overall, they have hope to accomplish three goals from this lawsuit.

"Number one, it's we get some answers, we seek justice for the brutal beating of Mr. Johnson, but number three, that we get some answers and prevent this from happening again," he said.

Simpson said he does not know if Johnson's family will be at Madison City Council's public hearing on Wednesday regarding Sequel TSI's business license, but they will be there to represent them.

WAAY 31 reached out to Sequel TSI to get their response on the lawsuit, and they said it's not their policy to comment on pending litigation.

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