The widow of a man fatally shot during a Thanksgiving family gathering at a Bray's Island Plantation home more than two years ago is suing the relative charged with his death, the suspect's wife and the gated community in Sheldon.
In the lawsuit, Florida resident Tracey Piotrowski, whose husband James Piotrowski was shot by both his uncle and a Bray's Island security guard on Nov. 25, 2010, claims the negligence of her relatives and the plantation caused her husband's death.
Richard Santee, the uncle of the victim, was charged with attempted murder in March 2011, but his case has not yet been scheduled for trial. The 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office has said it plans to try the case this year, after prosecuting several other murders. He and his wife, Carolyn Santee, have since moved to North Carolina, a relocation allowed under his bond conditions.
The civil lawsuit was filed June 14, and Santee has not yet filed a response.
Tracey Piotrowski alleges the couple should have secured their multiple firearms in a manner that did not endanger guests.
Instead, the lawsuit states a drunken Richard Santee had easy access to weapons and "recklessly" shot James Piotrowski during an argument.
According to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigation, Richard Santee placed the gun on the counter after shooting his nephew. James Piotrowski rose from the floor and grabbed it. Bray's Island security guard Charles Gary Knox arrived to find James Piotrowski holding a gun. Knox then fired the fatal shot.
Tracey Piotrowski's lawsuit does not name Knox as a defendant, and the guard was also cleared of wrongdoing by investigators.
However, the suit alleges Bray's Island did not properly train its security officers and that Knox fired a weapon before assessing the chaotic situation.
Tracey Piotrowski, awakened by the gunshots, saw her husband suffer and die at the bottom of the staircase, and she should be compensated for the emotional and physical pain that resulted, the suit said. It also asks that damages be determined by a jury, to include compensation for medical and funeral expenses.
The suit was filed by William Applegate, a Charleston lawyer. Attempts Monday to reach Applegate and Tracey Piotrowski for comment were unsuccessful.
Attempts to reach Richard Santee and representatives from Bray's Island also were unsuccessful. Santee's attorney in his criminal case, Mike Macloskie, said he is not yet representing Santee in the civil lawsuit.
Linda Flad, the mother of James Piotrowski and sister of Carolyn Santee, said she believes filing the civil lawsuit is the right move. However, she said she is upset that the criminal trial against her brother-in-law, Richard Santee, is taking so long. And the events that unfolded on that Thanksgiving are still a mystery to her.
"We still don't know what happened," said Flad, who was upstairs sleeping at the Bray's Island home when the shooting ocurred. "I am waiting to hear what my sister and brother-in-law have to say under oath."
- 2 years after Thanksgiving shooting, still no closure for widow, Nov. 26, 2012
- Grand jury indicts on charges of attempted escape, attempted murder and manslaughter, April 22, 2011
- Questions, contradictions surround deadly shooting incident, April 3, 2011