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Washington State Pays $6.4 Million for Failure to Supervise Parolee

Washington State’s Department of Corrections (WDOC) has agreed to pay $6.4 million to settle claims involving the department’s failure to properly supervise a parolee, resulting in a string of violent crimes that included rape and murder.

The settlements, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, resolved claims filed on behalf of four women who were victimized by Michael “Cowboy Mike” Braae.

The lawsuits against WDOC claimed that had Braae been properly supervised, he could not have committed the murders and rapes. The complaint stated that WDOC had lost a court order extending Braae’s supervision on parole from October 2000 to October 2001. WDOC also failed to place Braae on community supervision; instead he was put on the lowest form of supervision that allowed him to only pay fees.

One of Braae’s victims, Susan Ault, 39, was last seen on May 21, 2001. She disappeared shortly after having an argument with Braae. Her body has never been found but the Wahkiakum County coroner issued a death certificate that ruled her death a homicide. Braae remains a person of interest in her disappearance; he was driving her pickup truck at the time he was captured.

Another victim, Marchelle Morgan, was shot in the head and left for dead on a county road on July 14, 2001 but survived. She was unable to testify at Braae’s trial for attempted murder due to her brain injuries. A mistrial was declared in that case.

Lori Jones, 44, was raped and murdered in July 2001; she was last seen leaving a bar with Braae, and forensic evidence tied him to the crime scene. Also, Karen Peterson was sexually assaulted by Braae in July 2001 after meeting him at a local bar.

The settlement by WDOC included $3 million for Jones’ family; $2.4 million for Morgan and her son; $750,000 for the family of Susan Ault; and $250,000 for Peterson and her daughter. The settlements were announced in March and June 2010.

“Braae had a history of extreme violence towards women,” said Blaine Tamaki, the Yakima, Washington attorney who represented the plaintiffs. However, “[o]nce on parole, he was ignored.” See: Jones v. WDOC, Case No. 03-2-01531-5; Satterthwaite v. WDOC, Case No. 09-2-02408-9; Morgan-Hayes v. WDOC, Case No. 03-2-01368-1; and Peterson v. WDOC, Case No. 03-2-01369-0, all in Thurston County Superior Court (WA).

Braae was also a suspect in the deaths of a homeless woman in Oregon and one of his former girlfriends, both in 1997. He is finishing a prison term in Idaho and then will be transferred to Washington State to begin his 48-year sentence.

Sources: The News Tribune, Associated Press

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Related legal cases

Jones v. WDOC

Satterthwaite v. WDOC

Morgan-Hayes v. WDOC

Peterson v. WDOC