A Dallas County jury ordered Charter Communications, which operates locally as Spectrum, to pay millions of dollars in restitution after an employee murdered a woman in her own home, The Dallas Morning News reported.
The jury handed down the verdict Thursday and ordered the telecommunications company to pay 90% of $375 million in compensatory damages to the family of 83-year-old Betty Thomas.
The jury will meet Monday to discuss punitive damages, which could cause the dollar amount to increase.
Roy James Holden, 45, went to Thomas’ house in December 2019 to work on her phone line. The next day, while he was off the clock, he returned to her home using a company van and fatally stabbed her using a company-issued knife.
Holden pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2021.
Lawyers for the Thomas family said that, following the murder, Holden went on a “spending spree” with Thomas’ credit cards.
They also argued that her death was preventable.
The company had systemic failures in hiring practices and did not address warning signs from its employees.
Spectrum ended its pre-employment screening program in 2016, according to testimony presented at trial.
“A cursory review of [Holden’s] previous employers would have revealed firings for forgery, falsifying documents, and harassment of fellow employees,” attorneys said in a news release.
In a written statement to The Dallas Morning News, a Charter spokesman stated, “the facts presented at trial clearly show this crime was not foreseeable” and that Spectrum completed a “thorough” criminal background check before hiring Holden.
“Our hearts go out to Mrs. Thomas’ family in the wake of this senseless and tragic crime,” the statement read. “The responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr. Holden, and we are grateful he is in prison for life. While we respect the jury and the justice system, we strongly disagree with the verdict and plan to appeal.”
Ray Khirallah, one of the Thomas family’s lawyers, said Holden was going through a divorce, insomnia, and crying spells. He added that he once thought he was a former Dallas Cowboys player who became paralyzed.
The lawyers further argued Holden had unhindered access to a company van and was likely sleeping in it in the weeks leading up to Thomas’ death.
Testimony revealed that about a week before Thomas’ death, Holden told his supervisors he was “not okay” and asked about borrowing money.
Attorneys said the woman’s family continued to receive bills for service from Spectrum in the weeks after her death.