The family of a woman slain last year by her husband, a twice-convicted rapist, has filed suit on behalf of the girls left motherless by the killing.
Tammy Hale Releford's family filed an eight-page lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court last week arguing that Bradley County prosecutors acted negligently when they failed to place her husband, Terry Releford, on community supervision.
Releford married Tammy Hale within a few of months of being released from prison in May 2012. He had served about 15 years for aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated kidnapping.
Though Tennessee law requires lifetime community supervision for all violent sex offenders, the Bradley County District Attorney's Office failed to include it as part of his sentence in 1998.
Even after the Department of Correction sent two letters to prosecutors alerting them to the error, nothing was done, according to the lawsuit.
In May 2013, Releford raped a young woman and killed his wife before turning a gun on himself.
The lawsuit, which names the Bradley County District Attorney's Office and Bradley County, does not specify an amount of damages the family is seeking.
"We would hope to get the family some compensation for the children. That's all," said Mike Richardson, who is representing the Hale family. Tammy's parents, Danny and Vicki Hale, are raising her two daughters.
"Secondarily, we would like to send a message that this should not have happened. We think this was preventable and would have been preventable had the district attorneys done their job," Richardson said.
"Civil lawsuits can't change anything, but ultimately the first objective is to see if we can get some compensation so these children have something to help the grandparents sustain them in the future since their mother has been murdered," Richardson said.
Crystal Freiberg, Bradley County attorney, declined to comment. She said she had not yet seen the complaint.
Reached by phone Thursday, Vicki Hale said the girls are doing well. Every day, she said, she thinks of her daughter.
"I think our daughter would still be alive if they had done their part," she said.
Contact staff writer Beth Burger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.