Positano lawsuit debated

Katie Alberti

On Nov. 16, 2005, Judge John Enlow sentenced James E. Trimble to death by lethal injection.

Now, more than a year later, his case hasn’t disappeared. On Jan. 19, the parents of Kent State student Sarah Positano filed a $150 million lawsuit against Portage County authorities for the death of their daughter.

The fatal night

On Jan. 21, 2005, Trimble killed his live-in girlfriend Renee Bauer, 42, and her 7-year-old son Dakota in Brimfield Township.

Shortly after, Trimble left his home with an assault rifle and pistol. According to the lawsuit, he led Brimfield Township Police on a chase and after fleeing into the woods, decided to take refuge in Positano’s house.

It was about 10:30 p.m. when Positano heard noises outside – the sound of Trimble firing 80 to 90 rounds of ammunition, the suit stated.

Trimble took Positano hostage and put his pistol to her head. He ordered her to call 911 on her cell phone while he phoned the police.

According to the suit, Trimble told police, “There’s no safety on this gun. I’ve got it to her head. If I’m killed, this gun will go off, and she will be killed.”

Trimble and the Brimfield Township Police Department agreed Positano would be freed. But seconds later, the suit stated, Trimble grew agitated with authorities and shot Positano with his rifle.

The suit stated Trimble had been using a combination of a methamphetamine – crystal meth – and a tranquilizer, which “caused him to experience uncontrollable rage and violence.”

A family in mourning

The Positanos’ attorney, Michael Callahan, said Sarah’s parents are still trying to cope with her death.

“The loss of their daughter has had a devastating impact on the entire family,” he said. “Both the mother and father are having a difficult time. Her three siblings are handling it in different ways, but they are still having a difficult time as well.”

Callahan reiterated what he has said since the lawsuit was filed — the Positanos know who is to blame for Sarah’s death.

“They understand who the real bad guy is — Trimble,” he said. “But for the things that were done or not done (by Portage County authorities), their daughter might still be alive.”

Callahan said the Positanos don’t believe they were told the entire story of what happened the night Sarah was killed, which led them to file the lawsuit. He said the suit was filed now because it had taken awhile to investigate the crime.

After investigations ceased, he said it was time to either file the suit or drop it, and the Positanos “chose not to go away.”

Police reaction

David Blough, chief of the Brimfield Township Police Department, still can’t believe the lawsuit he now faces.

“It’s been a nightmare,” he said. “We did everything we could to prevent the loss of life. Our officers risked everything, including their lives, that night.”

According to the suit filed against him, Blough “failed to provide adequate and competent training and/or supervision” for his police officers. Because of their lack of training, Positano’s parents, A. James and Susan Positano, have endured “mental anguish” and “emotional suffering” from the loss of their daughter’s life.

Blough said the lawsuit is wrong.

“It’s malicious, slanderous and an outright lie,” he said. “We do everything we can to keep people safe.”

He said his department feels incredibly sorry for Sarah’s parents, but added they are being misguided by lawyers.

“Essentially, the reaction is that we’re kind of saddened it was filed,” he said. “We constantly think about their unimaginable loss, (but) their anger and frustration has been misdirected to the police department and the officers who were there.

“I feel they are knowingly being led down a conspiracy path by lawyers placing monetary objectives ahead of honor and dignity.”

A chain of defendants

Blough isn’t the only one being sued. According to the suit, the Brimfield Township trustees; Trimble; his mother, Elizabeth Trimble; Portage County Job and Family Services; the Portage County commissioners and the United States Probation Office are involved as well.

The suit was filed against Job and Family Services because the department had never investigated the living situation of Dakota, who, the suit stated, had been living with a man who had a drug problem and a collection of firearms.

In addition, the suit stated the U.S. Probation Office is also involved because it should have been checking up on Trimble because he had been on parole before killing Positano.

It also stated Trimble’s mother, Elizabeth, is involved because she was the landlord of her son’s home and had knowledge of a “dangerous condition” on her property.

A future unknown

Now that the lawsuit has been filed, Callahan said the next step is for each defendant to write their own responses. He said it will be a long time before the case is closed.

Blough said it’s difficult dealing with the reasons he is being sued.

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” he said, “but we live in a world where lawsuits are very common.”

Callahan said he understands why the Positanos filed the suit and said not many people can relate to what Sarah’s family is dealing with.

“Imagine how it is for their family,” he said. “I can’t imagine losing a child that way. You send her to school. She’s beautiful and she’s got everything going for her and then goes home in a box.”

Contact public affairs reporter Katie Alberti at [email protected].