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Lawsuit accuses school officials of 'unsafe atmosphere'

8/22/2003 - Baylor Bears

HOUSTON -- Efforts by Baylor athlete Patrick Dennehy to
expose wrongdoing in the university's basketball program resulted
in "violent threats" against him and a cover-up that led to his
murder, the player's father said in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed
Friday.

"Despite his best efforts, Patrick's fears became reality on or
about June 16, 2003, when he was lured to his death by another
Baylor basketball player and ultimately silenced forever," lawyers
for Patrick Dennehy Sr. said in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and names Baylor
University, former basketball coach Dave Bliss, school President
Robert Sloan, former athletic director Tom Stanton and others
associated with the program and the school.

Dennehy disappeared in mid-June, and his body was found in a
field outside Waco on July 25. He had been shot twice in the head.

His former teammate and roommate Carlton Dotson has been charged
with murder and is jailed in Maryland, awaiting the outcome of
extradition proceedings that would return him to Texas for trial.

Fallout from the case -- including allegations of improper
payments to players -- cost Bliss and Stanton their jobs, ravaged
the Baylor basketball program with players allowed to transfer to
other schools and prompted an internal inquiry by Baylor into
possible NCAA violations. NCAA penalties could affect the school's
athletic program for years.

"What Mr. Dennehy would like to accomplish in this lawsuit is
to reveal the entire truth surrounding his son's death and hold all
those responsible fully accountable," Houston attorney Richard
Laminack said at a news conference.

Patrick Dennehy Sr., who lives in Washington state, did not
appear with the lawyers involved in the lawsuit at their briefing
Friday. He is "still in the grieving process," according to
Daniel Cartwright, another Houston attorney who said he was
contacted by the player's father.

"He's devastated by this, not only by the loss but by the fact
that during this process until Patrick was discovered dead, they
told him lie after lie after lie, that he didn't have anything to
worry about," Cartwright said.

"The coaching staff was fully aware," Laminack added.
"Patrick came to them, asked for help. They denied it."

He said when Dennehy approached Bliss, the coach "sent him
away." And when Dennehy approached school officials, "They didn't
help either."

"It appears that the things Patrick was concerned about, the
things that were bothering him, and resulting in threats to him,
emanated from the program and activities associated with the
program."

Laminack would not elaborate on the nature of the threats,
"other than to say threats against his life."

He said Houston, about 165 miles southeast of Waco, was a more
appropriate and fair place to file the lawsuit because "I've often
heard it said Baylor is Waco, and Waco is Baylor."

Sloan told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had not seen the
lawsuit and declined comment. Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley did
not immediately respond to a call from The Associated Press later
in the day.

The lawyers said Brian and Valorie Brabazon, Dennehy's
stepfather and mother, were welcome to join the civil court action
but wouldn't say if any discussions had been held with the couple.
A message left by the AP at the Brabazon home in Nevada was not
immediately answered.

The elder Dennehy had little to do with his son until about four
years ago, Cartwright acknowledged, but said the pair had
"reconnected" and "worked hard in rekindling their
relationship."

Last week, secretly taped conversations were released in which
Bliss could be heard trying to get players and assistant coaches to
go along with a plot to say Dennehy was a drug dealer and that
Dennehy couldn't dispute the plot because he was dead.

"Dave Bliss is wrong when he says on the tape Patrick can't
argue with us any more," Laminack said Friday. "Our legal system
affords Patrick an opportunity to be heard and to confront those
responsible for his death."

Later Friday, Baylor announced it had hired 32-year-old Scott
Drew, who spent one year as coach at Valparaiso in northern
Indiana, as Bliss' successor.