DiGiuros find closure in wrongful death suit

After 14 years without his son, eight years sitting in courtrooms and three trips to the Kentucky Supreme Court, Mike DiGiuro said he and his family can finally begin a new chapter in their lives.

With a $63.4-million ruling last week, the family of Trent DiGiuro, a former UK offensive lineman, ended its legal battle against Shane Ragland.

Trent DiGiuro was shot and killed on Woodland Avenue in 1994. Ragland was convicted for Trent’s murder in 2002, although that conviction was later overturned. Ragland then pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was given credit for his previous incarceration and is no longer in prison.

On Aug. 19, a jury ruled that Ragland must pay the DiGiuro family $63.4 million  in punitive damages, lost wages and funeral costs.

During the six-year period before Ragland was identified as his son’s killer, DiGiuro decided if a conviction was ever made, he would file a wrongful death suit.

Sixty-three million dollars may seem like a large amount, but not for a “cold-blooded killer,” said Thomas Conway, the attorney for the DiGiuro family.

DiGiuro said the money made no difference to him, but the jury wanted to make a statement by punishing Ragland in a way that will most likely follow him for the rest of his life.

“(The jury) wanted a big number to send a message from the community of Lexington that you can’t do something like this and get away with it,” he said.

Ragland was not present when the jury read its verdict of the wrongful death suit. His attorney, Steven Romines, said since Ragland pleaded guilty to manslaughter, he and his attorneys decided not to defend the case.

“The jury decided based on the guilty plea that liability was determined,” Romines said. “We didn’t feel it was necessary to contest that issue. Whatever (the jury) said was fine with us.”

It is unlikely that his family will ever see any of the money, DiGiuro said, but it is good to know that Ragland can’t acquire any assets without having to pay.

“We don’t want the guy to get out of jail, get daddy’s money and live like a playboy. The goal is to punish him,” DiGiuro said.

Even though he isn’t serving any more jail time, DiGuiro said the jury’s verdict will be a lifelong punishment for Ragland.

“We realize his father is smart enough to get a lawyer to set up a trust or something, but if he ever gets a job we get a portion of that,” DiGiuro said. “I want him to see every other week, or every month he gets a paycheck, that some of it is being taken away.”

If the family ever does receive any money from the suit, Mike DiGiuro said he would give some to Trent’s brother, and to the Trent DiGiuro Foundation, which raises funds for college scholarships.

While the money signifies the end of a legal journey, it doesn’t change what happened to his son, DiGiuro said.

“We don’t miss Trent any less,” he said. “Trent is still dead; we don’t have grandchildren. Trent never got the opportunity to get married, have children … but it’s just another step in our lives.”