Civil suit awards more than $32 million to estate of slain woman

MORGANTOWN — More than $32 million was awarded to the estate of Shannon Lynn Stafford, who was murdered in the parking lot of the Hornbeck Road Walmart in April 2012.

The civil suit was filed the same year by her foster brother, Barry Adkins, and named Larry Mitchell, Sandra Mitchell and Nathan Mitchell as defendants. Larry and Sandra were Stafford’s mother-in-law and father-in-law and Nathan was her estranged husband.

Larry Mitchell pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He is being held at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex.

Attorney Paul Cranston, who represented Adkins, said the case wasn’t about the money, but about justice for Stafford and being able to provide for her daughter, Faith. Any money received through the lawsuit will be used to setup a trust or foundation to ensure she is taken care of, he said.

The final judgment order was signed Wednesday by Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Susan Tucker.

Stafford was shot and killed by Larry Mitchell while she was waiting for Nathan Mitchell to deliver Faith for an overnight visit on order of Harrison County’s Family Court, the judgment order stated.

According to the judgment, the suit alleged that Sandra and Nathan encouraged, assisted, aided, abetted, provoked and incited Larry Mitchell in the death of Stafford by sharing information with him that they reasonably should have known would cause him to take action that would seriously injure or kill Stafford, with the goal of keeping her from visiting or having custody of Faith.

At the time of the murder, the defendants were fixated on ways to keep Faith away from Stafford and her family, the suit stated.

Cranston said he believes the judgment was intended to convey the message that this type of conduct, where citizens take the law into their own hands, will not be tolerated. He said Tucker carefully considered everything before ruling and did an “outstanding” job with the case.

In total, Tucker awarded $32,614,860. Half of that sum is in compensatory damages; the other half was awarded for punitive damages.

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