After a Spectrum employee pled guilty in criminal court to murdering 83-year-old Irving resident Betty Thomas, a Dallas County civil court has ordered Spectrum’s parent company Charter Communications to pay $7 billion in punitive damages and $375 million in compensatory damages.
In 2019, Spectrum employee Roy Holden made a visit to elderly Betty Thomas’ home after Thomas reported having phone service issues. The next day, despite being off-duty, Holden took a company vehicle and returned to Thomas’ house after learning that she had reported further problems with her service.
After Holden entered the home to work on a fax machine, the victim allegedly discovered Holden stealing credit cards from her purse. At this point, Holden murdered Thomas with a utility knife, took the credit cards, and apparently went on a spending spree.
In April 2021, Holden pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in jail. However, attorneys for the family claimed that Thomas’ death was preventable and that Charter had missed multiple red flags before the killing.
According to the civil complaint, Charter did not conduct a pre-employment screening before hiring Holden, which would have revealed that he had a history of being fired from earlier jobs for harassing employees, forgery, and falsifying documents.
During his last days at Spectrum, he had written notes to upper management asking for help after a divorce and financial struggle.
On other occasions, he had reportedly told supervisors that he was “not OK,” and had shown other warning signs, attorneys claimed.
After his initial service call at the Thomas house, Holden was barred from working any more calls. Due to this, Charter said that Holden was acting on his own and claimed the responsibility for the crime “rests solely with Mr. Holden.”
However, attorneys asserted during the trial that Spectrum had knowingly forged documents relating to the case. According to the plaintiffs, attorneys for Spectrum used an allegedly forged document to attempt to force the lawsuit into closed-door arbitration to keep the results secret and limit damages to the extent of the Thomas’s service bill.
“This verdict justly reflects the extensive evidence regarding the nature of the harm caused by Charter Spectrum’s gross negligence and reckless misconduct. For the safety of the American public, we can only hope that Charter Spectrum and its shareholders are listening,” said trial lawyer Chris Hamilton.
In a written statement, Charter denied the allegations against the company as “categorically false.”
The company maintained that it conducted a pre-employment criminal background check and asserted that nothing was revealed that indicated Holden had a history of criminal behavior. The statement also added that nothing in Holden’s performance after he was hired suggested that he was capable of the crime he committed.
Charter plans to appeal the verdict.