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Lawsuit alleges family responsibility in the killing of two local teenagers

Friday, July 04, 2014 - Updated: 9:50 AM


FONDA -- The mothers of two Amsterdam boys killed in 2012 are suing the parents and guardians of the convicted killers for more than $25,000 in punitive damages.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed with the Montgomery County Clerk's office last week on behalf of Sandra Damphier and Bridget Masesie, the mothers of 16-year-old Paul Damphier Jr. and 13-year-old Jonathan DeJesus, who were killed by Anthony Brasmeister and Matthew Phelps.

The suit names Anthony's parents Emily and Timothy Brasmeister and Jonathan's grandparents Donna and Peter Phelps as liable parties. The suit also names Paul Karona, the boyfriend of Emily Brasmeister.

Attorney Elmer Robert Keach III said he filed the suit on June 24 after New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Co. allegedly refused to resolve the issue.

"This entire situation is obviously tragic for everyone involved. My clients lost their sons. The sons of the families are now in prison, potentially for life," Keach said. "I had hoped to work with the insurance carrier for both families and asked the carrier to resolve this in lieu of having to file this case. They refused to engage in negotiations. "

Timothy Brasmeister's attorney Paul A. Hurley said Thursday that he had yet to receive a copy of the lawsuit, but that he wasn't surprised. Hurley said he couldn't proceed until he was notified by the insurance carrier.

"We would put in a defense for Brasmeister assuming the insurance carrier retains us," Hurley said. "They weren't the ones that committed the acts. What is their negligence?"

Sandra Damphier and Bridget Masesie are seeking a jury trial, and claim that the parents and/or guardians of the convicted killers should be held liable for damages no less than $25,000 for failing to secure the firearms that were used to kill the two boys.

On July 9, 2012, Anthony Brasmeister and Matthew Phelps shot both Paul Damphier and Jonathan DeJesus at a densely wooded area near a town of Florida soybean field. Their remains were found 10 days later.

The weapons involved a Savage Brand Rifle with a 10-round clip that was allegedly owned by Donna and Peter Phelps and a single-shot Rossi .22 Caliber Rifle allegedly owned by Emily and Timothy Brasmeister.

"Paul and Jonathan would be alive today if Matthew Phelps' grandparents and Anthony Brasmeister's parents and/or guardian took appropriate steps to secure the firearms in their home," the suit states.

The lawsuit further alleges they are liable since both of the boys had mental health issues, anger management problems, and disciplinary issues. The suit cites incidents in which Matthew Phelps had allegedly threatened to shoot and kill another student in the Greater Amsterdam School District and that Anthony Brasmeister reportedly had a long history of criminal behavior.

"The laws of New York state clearly establish that parents and/or guardians are liable for damages caused to third parties when they negligently allow their children and/or wards to use a dangerous instrument," the lawsuit states.

According to court documents, in October 2013, Keach notified Timothy Brasmeister that Sandra Damphier had retained him to represent her in a wrongful death suit regarding the death of her son.

In anticipation of the lawsuit, Hurley had filed a petition in March seeking a court order on behalf of Timothy Brasmeister directing District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy to preserve all evidence related to the criminal case, including the rifle used.

Hurley said he later withdrew the petition, when he had found out that the evidence couldn't be obtained.

"I was told by the New York State Police and the district attorney's office that the guns had been destroyed," Hurley said.

Conboy said in March that the penal law required the destruction of any firearm commissioned in the use of a crime.

On Dec. 20, 2012, Anthony Brasmeister and Phelps were indicted on two counts of second-degree murder. They pleaded guilty within weeks of each other to both counts.

Phelps, who was 15 at the time of the killings, will spend between 15 years to life behind bars, while Brasmeister, who was 16, will spend 25 to life.


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