Lawsuit accuses school officials of 'unsafe atmosphere'
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.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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