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Kristy Ragsdale

PROVO — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the man accused of shooting his wife to death in a Lehi church parking lot.

Officials acting on behalf of the two children left without parents on Jan. 6 say the boys should not have to scrimp by on their deceased mother's Social Security survivor benefits.

The guardian ad litem assigned to oversee the welfare of the two children of David and Kristy Ragsdale wants a legal decision ordering David Ragsdale's assets — no less than $1 million — to be directed toward funeral expenses and the future of the children.

"It's pretty straight-forward. If (Ragsdale is) responsible for the death, he's responsible to compensate his children for the loss of their mother," said attorney Robert Jeffs, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of his brother, William M. Jeffs, the court-appointed guardian ad litem and conservator for the Ragsdale children.

Police say Kristy Ragsdale had just arrived at the parking lot of an LDS church when a man pulled in front of her van, got out and shot her a dozen times with a 9mm handgun.

A 4th District judge ruled late Monday night that there is enough evidence to order Ragsdale to stand trial on a charge of aggravated murder and two charges of domestic violence in the presence of a child. The Ragsdale boys were not in the parking lot, but other young churchgoers were.

However, Kristy Ragsdale's death has caused Brandon David Ragsdale, 4, and Carter John Ragsdale, 2, to be "deprived of a kind and loving mother and of her care, comfort, protection, love, advice, society, physical assistance and financial and emotional support," according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in 4th District Court.

It's also left them without a source of financial stability. Their father has been in the Utah County Jail since the shooting.

"It is a little bit tight," said William Jeffs, speaking of the children's financial situation. "We've been able to get some Social Security for them that's helping out."

But those survivor benefits from Kristy Ragsdale's Social Security should not be the only source on which the children should have to rely, the attorneys argue.

The lawsuit says that David Ragsdale should be responsible for the expenses of the children and funeral expenses for Kristy Ragsdale at no less than $1 million, with an exact amount to be determined by a jury.

Ragsdale does not have a civil attorney, and a family member with power of attorney did not immediately return requests for comment.

Ragsdale's family has maintained a belief that their son and brother was influenced by what they call a "cocktail" of carelessly prescribed medications and was not in his right mind when the shooting occurred.

"We ask the public not to be too quick to judge until all the evidence is in," Ragsdale's sister Tamara Ragsdale said after Monday's court hearing.

The Ragsdale children are living with Ann Palizzi, Kristy's mother, who was granted temporary custody by the court. Full guardianship has yet to be determined but has been requested by the Ragsdale family as well as Palizzi.

Palizzi is living in the Ragsdales' Lehi home as part of the temporary custody order, but all parties have stipulated that the home can be put on the market in several weeks, said William Jeffs, who is also the personal representative of the Kristy Ragsdale estate.

Just before the shooting, the Ragsdales had begun divorce proceedings and had already separated their checking accounts, with the joint asset being the house, William Jeffs said.

A separate civil case divided the house's worth between Kristy Ragsdale's estate and David Ragsdale. It is David Ragsdale's half of the house attorneys are targeting for the children. They are also looking into other assets, though are somewhat limited in that scope at this point.

"If we didn't bring this, he could potentially sell (the house) and give away (the money)," Robert Jeffs said. "Our fear is, we don't want the potential estate of these kids to be dissipated by whatever he does."

Such lawsuits are common following an alleged wrongful death and are generally granted, Robert Jeffs said, especially if it has been clearly established that someone's actions caused the death of another.

"At that point in time, it's really more a matter of what is the fair and reasonable judgment amount," he said.


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com