Trial in Housing Authority lawsuit delayed
Murder victim's family filed suit in '08

COVINGTON - The start date for a trial to determine if the Covington Housing Authority should be held liable in the 2006 murder of Tammara Erica Reed, who was visiting a resident in the complex when she was killed, has been delayed.

The trial was set to begin Oct. 12. A law clerk in Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson's office said a pre-trial conference took place Friday in the judge's chambers and that due to conflicts in the case it would likely not be heard in October.

The lawsuit was filed by Reed's family in March 2008.

Willie R. Gunn pleaded guilty to malice murder in the death of Reed and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Gunn also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony for which he received an additional five years.

Gunn had previously pleaded guilty to murder in Newton County Superior Court in 1963 under the name Billy Gunn.

The lawsuit alleges that Housing Authority staff should have known Gunn's criminal history and should not have approved his lease application, based on their own leasing guidelines.

It further states that the Housing Authority breached its duty to keep residents safe by leasing the property to Gunn and failed to provide adequate security.

The family is seeking compensatory damages for the full value of Reed's life and for mental and physical pain and suffering and funeral expenses.

Attorneys for the family and the Housing Authority could not be reached for comment.

A response filed by the Housing Authority's attorney in April 2008 claims the authority has sovereign and governmental immunity from suit and liability and had no duty to control the conduct of a resident. It cites the deliberative process doctrine, similar to official or qualified immunity, for public officers in taking discretionary actions. The deliberative process doctrine allows government entities to act free from suit and liability for considerations leading to a final action or decision.

The Housing Authority obtained a criminal history for Gunn through the Georgia Criminal Information Center dated Oct. 29, 2004, the response states.

The criminal history showed two convictions: One in 1976 for sexual battery and solicitation to commit criminal sodomy and one in 1981 for driving under the influence.

The Housing Authority did not receive a record of his previous murder conviction under the name Billy Gunn in 1963, the document states.

However, even if that fact was known, given that Gunn was released on parole in 1970 and had a favorable employment history and had met past financial obligations, he likely would have been deemed acceptable to live in public housing, the document states.

It also states that Reed was a frequent visitor in Gunn's residence and was in "a superior position to know Gunn's affinity for intoxication and his propensity for violence and the commission of criminal acts" and that she assumed the risk of injury by being at his residence.

Reed was found by authorities lying on the front porch of Gunn's apartment on Sept. 27, 2006, with a gunshot wound to the back of the head. She was later pronounced dead by the assistant coroner at Newton Medical Center.

According to statements made by witnesses, Gunn and Reed had an argument the night before the shooting over a set of car keys.