- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2000

The Prince George's County (Md.) Board of Education has settled a $1 million lawsuit over the death of Suitland High School student whose parents claimed the school system should have done more to alert them about their daughter's gang ties and truancy.
Tatia Brennan was stabbed 42 times and bludgeoned with a kitchen sink by fellow gang members near Suitland High School in 1995. Her body was found under a pile of debris in a nearby wooded area Nov. 30, 1995, three days after she was reported missing by her parents.
Three teen-agers were later convicted in the gang-related, retaliation-style killing. They, along with Tatia, were members of a loose-knit gang known locally as the Bloods.
Tatia's parents sued the school system in 1997 for $1 million, claiming it hadn't done all it could to protect its students and hadn't told them that their 14-year-old daughter was involved with a gang and had repeatedly left school during school hours.
Stephen J. Williams, the Brennans' attorney, said yesterday both parties agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed amount about two weeks ago. The case was scheduled to go to court before a Prince George's County jury yesterday morning.
"Nobody wanted to go to trial in this case," said Mr. Williams, who declined to discuss the specifics of the settlement. "I think both sides were pleased with the outcome. Now [the Brennans] can sort of go on and put their lives back together. But their lives will never be the same."
An attorney for the school system, Andy Nussbaum, said yesterday the terms of the settlement were confidential and declined to comment on the case. He said the school system is self-insured and will therefore pay any amount stipulated in the settlement.
Despite the settlement, school board attorneys claimed in their response to the lawsuit last year that the system was not liable. They argued Tatia was "contributorily negligent" and "assumed the risk of her alleged injuries."
Mr. Williams said the Brennans sued the system to make a point.
"It never had to do with money," he said. "It was more about a principle. The family claimed that the school system should have taken all necessary measures to keep its children safe. And that they should have been informed that their daughter was leaving school during classes."
According to news reports published at the time of the murder, Sandra Brennan, Tatia's mother, said school officials never told her or her husband, Leroy Brennan, that Tatia belonged to a gang until her daughter's body was found. Mrs. Brennan said she and her husband would have tried to help their daughter had they known.
Tatia, a sophomore at Suitland High, was beaten and stabbed to death during school hours Nov. 27, 1995, behind the Penn Station Shopping Center on Silver Hill Road by two 16-year-old classmates, Shawnte Renice Perry and Vouthynor "Billy" Sovann.
According to court testimony, Perry and Sovann, acting on orders from gang leader Chris Witcher, lured Tatia into the woods before slashing her throat, stabbing her and crushing her skull with a porcelain sink. Then they hid her body under a pile of dirt and debris until a police K-9 unit found the remains three days later.
At separate murder trials the following year, prosecutors argued that Witcher, then 19, had ordered Perry and Sovann to kill Tatia after he found out that Tatia had warned a nonmember that her gang was going to beat and maybe kill him.
All three teen-agers were found guilty of murder. Perry is serving a life sentence but could be considered for parole in 11 years. Sovann, who cooperated with police and prosecutors, is serving 25 years and will be eligible for parole in about five years.
Witcher is serving a life sentence without parole for ordering Tatia's death.

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