The victim of a brutal beating and rape by an employee of a Richland apartment complex has filed a lawsuit against the complex, The Villas at Meadow Springs.
Cody Joseph Kloepper, 33, was sentenced last month to 241/2 years to life in prison for the attack on the complex resident after being found guilty by a jury. He has denied he did it and plans to appeal.
The Villas and the company hired to manage the complex, HSC Real Estate, were negligent in hiring Kloepper, in his supervision and in providing security for residents, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Benton County Superior Court.
The victim wants to protect others from similar crimes related to lax security on rental properties, said her attorney, Jay Flynn of Kennewick. She is not named under the Herald's policy not to identify victims of sexual assault.
The Villas referred questions to a public relations official who said the company could not comment on litigation.
Kloepper, a maintenance worker, had access to a key to the victim's locked apartment and let himself in while she was sleeping to attack her in December 2009.
During the criminal trial, Kloepper admitted he got into The Villas manager's office with a master key and then got into the box where keys to individual apartments were kept, Flynn said. Kloepper said he got a key to sleep in a vacant apartment.
There are ways that apartment complexes can protect residents' keys, Flynn said. Some use an after-hours code system on the manager's office that tracks who has been in the office. Keys in the key box should not be identified by apartment number. That information should be kept separately, he said.
If a groundskeeper had not seen Kloepper leaving the complex hours after the Saturday morning rape, it might never have been known that Kloepper had been in the manager's office and obtained an apartment key early that morning, Flynn said.
During the criminal trial, the manager at The Villas said employees, including maintenance staff, have keys to her office, where individual keys to the 286 units are kept. Employees are supposed to fill out a log each time they take a key and bring it back, but there would be no record of someone going into the lock box if they didn't fill out the form, she said.
Kloepper did not have a felony record at the time he was hired by The Villas, but did have some misdemeanor charges, including possession of marijuana.
During the attack, Kloepper repeatedly hit the victim with a metal bar and then raped her. She fought back, suffering a shattered arm and broken wrist and needed 43 stitches to her head.
The woman, who was then 48, moved in with her parents, who are 77 and 79, after the attack. In a letter for the presentence investigation in the criminal trial, she described her parents as additional victims of the crime, as they "watch over me and comfort me as we heal through this ordeal," she said.
The woman's arms and hands are slightly, yet permanently disabled, and she still is ashamed and embarrassed at the story she has to recount when someone asks her about her hands, she told the court.
"I am still not sure how to deal with the resulting anger, or how to best deal with my feelings of frustration that this so horribly hurt and traumatized my parents," the woman wrote.
She continues to suffer physical disability and pain, emotional trauma, medical expenses, loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity, according to the lawsuit.
In addition to The Villas at Meadow Springs and HSC Real Estate, Robert Young & Associates also was named in the lawsuit. Robert Young & Associates was a partial owner of the building at the time of the crime, but no longer has any ownership of the complex.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org