Originally created 11/06/01

Phelon families take suit to court



AIKEN - The families of those killed by Hastings Arthur Wise and those who survived his 1997 rampage at the R.E. Phelon Co. will head to a federal court this morning.

They seek monetary damages from the security company they say should have protected the plant's employees.

Two of the three who survived and families of the four who were killed say Regent Security Services knew of Mr. Wise's potential for violence but did nothing to prevent him from entering the plant.

Regent Security guard Stanley L. Vance was the first injured by Mr. Wise. Mr. Vance sued Phelon and settled with the company for an undisclosed amount of money in March - a week before his trial in Aiken County Common Pleas court was to begin.

Mr. Wise was convicted of the killings and sentenced to death earlier this year.

Mr. Vance had said the small engine parts manufacturer failed to warn him of Mr. Wise's disagreements with the company.

Mr. Wise was fired from Phelon in July 1997. On Sept. 17 of that year, he drove through the front gate, shot Mr. Vance and proceeded inside to shoot people he thought had wronged him, witnesses at Mr. Wise's trial testified.

Eight months before the shootings, Mr. Vance wrote a memo to company officials, telling them they needed to install a security camera system, according to his lawsuit.

Phelon did not acknowledge any guilt in its settlement with Mr. Vance and is not a defendant in the federal suit. But Phelon and its insurance company have intervened in the families' lawsuit, hoping to recover some of the $380,000 the families received through the Worker's Compensation Act.

Mr. Wise was sentenced to death in February for killing Sheryl Wood, 27; David Moore, 30; Leonard Filyaw, 30; and Charles Griffeth, 56. John Mucha and Jerry Corley were wounded.

A Charleston jury was chosen Thursday to hear the case.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or mboedy@augusta.com.