Beaufort attack victims focus on lawsuit against city

BEAUFORT -- With their attackers behind bars, the Tennessee couple abducted from a downtown parking lot can concentrate on a lawsuit they filed against the city of Beaufort.

The couple filed the suit in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas in October 2006, asserting the city and four businesses did not do enough to secure and light the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. No dollar amount was specified, but the couple is seeking actual and punitive damages for mental anguish and physical pain.

Also named in the couple's original lawsuit were Branch Banking and Trust of South Carolina, Collins Engineering Inc., Brantley Construction Co. and Tidal Wave 23.

In an April 2008 decision, Master in Equity Marvin Dukes dismissed the suits against every party except the city, writing the couple failed to provide enough evidence to warrant a jury trial.

The couple's attorney, Jim Moss of Beaufort, filed a notice of appeal in September to again include all parties in the suit.

The couple was abducted at gun- and knife-point from the BB&T parking lot on Bay Street on May 26, 2006, by Alfonzo Howard and Lorenzo Hicks. They were forced into their Lexus sedan and made to drive to a Lady's Island ATM to withdraw $900 in cash.

The couple then was forced to drive to the football stadium at Beaufort High School where Howard raped the woman.

Howard was convicted Feb. 27 on rape, kidnapping, carjacking, and armed robbery charges and sentenced to six life sentences without parole. Hicks received 20 years in prison as part of a plea bargain

Beaufort City Attorney Bill Harvey could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The city denied the allegations in 2006, claiming -- among other defenses -- that it could not be held liable for the criminal actions of Howard and Hicks.

The couple's lawsuit against the city of Beaufort still is pending, according to court records.