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Charter Communications ordered to pay family $1.1 billion over murdered relative

A Texas family has been awarded $1.14 billion in damages against Charter Communications in a lawsuit over the fatal stabbing of their elderly mother and grandmother nearly three years ago. 

Dallas County Judge Juan Renteria ordered Charter to pay the family of Betty Jo McClain Thomas in a final judgment released Monday. The settlement comes after former Spectrum cable technician Roy Holden Jr. admitted to murdering the 83-year-old Thomas in her home in December 2019. 

A Texas jury also found that Charter "knowingly and intentionally committed forgery with the intent to defraud or harm" the plaintiffs by faking Thomas' signature on a forced arbitration agreement after she had already died. 

The award will be split among Thomas' grandson William Goff and her children Charles Thomas, Charlotte Glover, Cheryl Goff and Cindy Ringless. 

"We are grateful that, after careful consideration and review of the law and trial record, the court entered judgment ordering Charter to pay more than $1 billion in total damages to the victim's family," the family's attorney, Chris Hamilton of Hamilton Wingo, said in a statement on the law firm's website. 

Judge Renteria originally awarded Thomas' family more than $7 billion in damages, but the family agreed to reduce that amount to $1.14 billion. 

Spending spree after stabbing

Thomas' family filed a lawsuit against Charter Communications, which owns Spectrum, in 2020. The suit claimed Charter sent Holden to Thomas' home to fix a problem with her Spectrum service. When Thomas called Charter the next day for more repairs, Holden, who was off-duty, arrived in a Spectrum company van, stabbed Thomas repeatedly and then stole her credit cards before going on a spending spree, the lawsuit alleged.

Holden pleaded guilty during his trial against Thomas' family last year and is serving a life sentence in prison. 

Thomas' family argued in court earlier this year that Charter didn't properly screen Holden before hiring him and that Holden was going through a divorce, experienced frequent insomnia and crying spells, and was financially unstable while working for Charter. The jury sided with Thomas' family. 

Charter plans to appeal the decision, the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. The Connecticut-based cable provider said that while it respects the jury's decision, "the responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr. Holden, who was not on duty, and we are grateful he is in prison for life."

Charter said it took all necessary steps to vet Holden before his hire, "including a thorough pre-employment criminal background check — which showed no arrests, convictions or other criminal behavior." There was no evidence from "Mr. Holden's performance after he was hired that suggested he was capable of the crime he committed, including more than 1,000 completed service calls with zero customer complaints about his behavior," Charter said. 

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