Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Family of fatal Bridgewater shooting victim loses suit 

A state appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against the parents of a local man who fatally shot the owner of a township jewelry store and then killed himself in 2011.

The lawsuit, filed by the daughters of Roy DeVoe, the 55-year-old owner of Roy T. Jewelers at Bridgewater Towne Center on Route 202, claimed that Joseph and Holli Koury were responsible for the actions of their 19-year-old son, Michael, who shot DeVoe in the late afternoon of Feb. 7, 2011 and then killed himself.

The court ruling includes details of the incident, which had not previously been disclosed by authorities.

According to the court ruling, Angela DeVoe was in front of her father's store when she saw Michael Koury, dressed like a Hasidic male, walking in her direction.

As he went inside the store, she asked him if he needed assistance and he said in a slow and deliberate voice, "Start packing up like it's five o'clock and it's time to. I want gold, silver, platinum, no watches and I'm taking it with me. If you don't, there's enough bullets in this gun to kill all three of you and myself," court papers say.

At first she did not take him seriously and tried to persuade him not to steal anything but then he said, "You don't believe me, you want to bet your life on it?"

She then called to her father and when she started to dial 911, he ordered her to put down the phone.

At that point, court papers say, Roy DeVoe came from the back of the store with a knife and an aluminum pipe, approached Koury and told him to leave.

Koury then raised the .357 revolver and shot the store owner in the head.

He then shot at Angela DeVoe, but missed.

He then shot himself in the jaw, slit his throat with a knife and shot himself a second time, court papers say.

Koury's father came to Bridgewater Police Headquarters a couple of hours later to report his son was missing. He brought a note that his wife had found in their son's room earlier in the day.

In the note, court papers say, Michael Koury wrote, "I am dissatisfied with the current state of my life. To rectify this, I have devised a plan that will either improve or end my life. I don't expect you to understand, just know it's not your fault."

Koury's father told police his son had been depressed because a medical condition had disqualified him from joining the military.

The police investigation found that the gun used at the jewelry store belonged to the parents and had been kept in a locked case.

The DeVoe family filed suit a year later, claiming that Koury's parents were responsible for their son's behavior and had failed to take action when they knew he was "mentally unstable."

The lawsuit, which also named New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company, the parents' insurance carrier, as a defendant, also claimed the parents were negligent because they failed to secure the gun.

In 2013, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Koury's parents, finding they were not negligent and suppressing a psychiatrist's opinion that the young man was insane.

The court also agreed with the insurance company's argument that Michael Koury's actions fell within the policy's "intentional-conduct exclusion" because the DeVoe family had not shown that Michael Koury "suffered from the derangement of intellect" as required by law and that his actions were intentional.

Koury's parents had argued that they had never told their son about the gun or where the keys to its storage box were kept. Court papers say the keys were found in in their usual place behind a mirror and police found a lock-picking kit in Michael Koury's bedroom.

"There is nothing in the record to support an inference that the gun had been left out or that the Kourys had reason to believe that they should have used a more secure method of storage," the appellate court wrote.

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