The parents of Makayla Dyer have sued the parents of an 11-year-old boy who fatally shot their daughter after an argument over puppies, CBS News is reporting. The wrongful death suit was filed in court Monday at the Jefferson County, Tennessee.
The $10 million lawsuit is asking for $5 million in punitive damages and a supplementary $5 million for funeral and medical expenses as well as for emotional trauma. In the lawsuit, Makayla’s parents accused Jason and Mary Ann Tiller of “gross negligence” for allowing their son, Benjamin, access to a loaded firearm.
“Jason Tiller and Mary Ann Tiller had a duty to supervise their child, Benjamin Tiller, using reasonable care to prevent their minor child from harming others with their firearms.”
Benjamin Tiller had taken the gun from his father’s unlocked closet.
The 11-year-old boy had been trained on how to use a gun and occasionally hunted with his father, three brothers, and two sisters. Benjamin Tiller lived in the same mobile home park with Makayla Dyer in White Pine, Tennessee, which is 40 miles on the outskirts of Knoxville. Both kids also attended the same school, White Pine Elementary School.
Latasha Dyer said that her daughter had been bullied by Benjamin Tiller at school long before he fatally shot her over puppies in her front yard.
“When we first moved to White Pine, the little boy was bullying Makayla. He was making fun of her, calling her names, just being mean to her. I had to go to the principal about him and he quit for a while, and then all of a sudden … he shot her.”
On October 3, 2015, the third-grader girl was playing outside with her 11-year-old sister and another girl. Benjamin Tiller, who was observing from his bedroom window, told them to bring their puppies out so that he could play with them.
The girls refused.
The 11-year-old boy got a 12-gauge shotgun and BB gun and threatened the girls, telling them that he had guns. Makayla had laughed and said the guns were not real. The 8-year-old girl was still laughing when Benjamin Tiller “made certain the gun was loaded, cocked the hammer on the gun, and shot the victim just above the heart at a downward trajectory,” the presiding judge at his trial revealed.
Police who arrived on the scene found Dyer bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to the chest. She was hurriedly taken to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after. Investigators believe that the Tiller family was watching a University of Tennessee football game in the living room when Benjamin fired out of his bedroom window with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Benjamin Tiller was found guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Makayla Dyer. He is being kept in state custody for the rest of his childhood until he reaches the age of 19. Jefferson County Juvenile Court judge Dennis Roach II gave his rationale behind the verdict.
“A child who commits first-degree murder cannot be willy-nilly turned loose into society.”
Tiller’s grandparents had said that their grandson was not the one responsible for killing Makayla Dyer, arguing that another child must have accidentally shot the 8-year-old.
“We believe that when the autopsy is revealed, it will show that the victim was shot from the ground, at close range.”
However, a court document showed that the boy confessed to the crime and “rendered no aid to the victim.” The document concluded that Benjamin Tiller was “guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, of the unlawful, intentional and premeditated murder of Makayla Dyer.”
Makayla had just turned 8; three weeks later, she was dead.
Her loved ones described her as a delightful and typical 8-year-old girl who loved life, loved everyone, and was always curious about everything people did, always wanting to help or be part of it.
The parents of Benjamin Tiller plan to fight the lawsuit.
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