The mother of a Billings teenager who committed suicide has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against a former Billings Senior High teacher who sexually assaulted the girl.
Auliea Hanlon filed the District Court lawsuit against Stacey Dean Rambold, who last year admitted to committing a sexual felony against Hanlon’s then 14-year-old daughter, Cherice Moralez.
Rambold made the admission as part of a three-year deferred-prosecution agreement reached five months after Moralez’s death. At the time of agreement last July 16, prosecutors said it was the best resolution to the criminal case that they could hope to achieve after the girl’s death.
The civil lawsuit against Rambold was filed Feb. 4 on behalf of Hanlon by Billings attorney Shane Colton. The lawsuit alleges six causes of action, including wrongful death, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, sexual assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and survivorship.
The lawsuit seek an unspecified amount of damages for the loss of Moralez’s life, her pain and mental anguish, her family’s grief and loss of companionship, and expenses related to her medical treatment, funeral and burial.
The lawsuit also seeks an unspecified amount of punitive damages against Rambold, alleging that he acted with malice toward the teenager.
The four-page lawsuit alleges that in 2006 or 2007, when Moralez was 14 and Rambold was a teacher at the high school, he “developed a relationship” with the girl “which became a sexual relationship in the fall of 2007.”
“Pre-sexual grooming by (Rambold) led to sexual assault,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of the sexual assault and its aftermath, Cherice Moralez experienced severe emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment, and fell into irreversible depression that tragically led to her taking her own life on Feb. 6, 2010.”
Moralez died 20 days before her 17th birthday.
The criminal case began on Oct. 31, 2008, when the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office charged Rambold with three felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent. Prosecutors alleged that Rambold had sexual contact with the ninth-grade girl three times between October and December 2007. The incidents happened at his house, in his vehicle and in his school office.
Rambold was 49 when he was charged.
The allegations initially surfaced in April 2008 when Moralez told a church group leader that she had been sexually assaulted by a teacher. The church member told Hanlon, who called police.
Rambold, a business and technology teacher, was placed on paid leave shortly after the police investigation began. He resigned in July 2008 and later surrendered his Montana teaching certificate.
Rambold has not yet been served with the civil complaint, Colton said Wednesday. He declined to comment further on the lawsuit. When asked if legal action was being considered against Billings School District 2, Colton said the civil case against Rambold is the “only formal action at this time.”
Rambold now operates a painting and handyman business in Billings. He declined to comment Wednesday on the lawsuit and referred questions to Billings attorney Jay Lansing.
Lansing represented Rambold in the criminal case but said Wednesday that he hasn’t talked with Rambold about representing him in the civil case.
Lansing and Rod Souza, the county’s chief criminal attorney who prosecuted Rambold, said the former school teacher has apparently complied with the conditions of the deferred-prosecution agreement. The agreement stated that Rambold would undergo sex offender treatment, which could last up to three years.
Rambold also agreed to have no contact with children “unless contact with his own children is provided for in a parenting plan” and approved by his treatment providers.
The civil case has been assigned to Judge Susan Watters.