Elijah and Jerlene Gilmore, the parents of a student homicide victim, filed a $1 million claim against Arkansas State University in January.
Elijah and Jerlene Gilmore, the parents of a student homicide victim, filed a $1 million claim against Arkansas State University in January. Gilmore family attorney Phyllis M. Gillespie filed the claim with the state Claims Commission on Jan. 4. The claim cites "great pain and suffering" on Michael "Rudy" Gilmore's parents and siblings. Gilmore contends ASU-Jonesboro had a duty to provide a safe environment and adequate security for students "especially when it was foreseeable that such criminal activity could take place given the past incidences of violent crime. ASU-Jonesboro was negligent in failing to employ reasonable security measures to protect Michael D. Gilmore ... As a result of the ASU's failures, Michael Gilmore suffered and died." In the claim, a number of past incidents of violence on the A-State campus are cited. "In July 2005, a Sikeston, Mo., student at ASU was shot in the chest at Collegiate Park Apartments; in February 2006, an ASU student was shot at the ASU Pavilion; in February 2008, an ASU student was shot; and in February 2010, an ASU student was raped on campus." Following the Gilmore homicide, university administrators formed a safety task force and made a number of security improvements at residence halls. ASU System President Dr. Charles "Chuck" Welch did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday. ASU-Jonesboro Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson said he was with guests and was unable to comment. Jeff Hankins, vice chancellor for strategic communications and economic development, declined comment, saying he was out of the office and not in a position to speak about the claim. A spokeswoman from the state Claims Commission said a hearing date has not been scheduled for the Gilmore case. Meanwhile, Gilmore, a resident of Helena-West Helena, and her family plan to spend the three-year anniversary of her son's death at the cemetery. "It gives me peace of mind and continues to keep him lifted up. It keeps our spirits lifted," she said. Gilmore's son was killed three years ago from a gunshot wound in his Collegiate Apartment Complex residence. Someone shot him in the head with a semi-automatic handgun at about 1 a.m. April 17, 2010. He was 24. University Police Chief Randy Martin said UPD Investigator Brian Shelton spent more than a day on the Gilmore case a couple of weeks ago. Martin said Shelton visited with and talked again to people familiar with the crime who might shed light on the homicide. "It is still under investigation," Martin said. "It's still being worked on." Although Gilmore filed the claim against ASU in January, she has not talked with University Police since December. Gilmore said she has been missing a part of herself for the past three years. "You feel empty inside, sad and hurt, and you just worry. This is a day-to-day thing. You have to deal with it. It's hard to focus on what you need to do," she said. "It's a big part of you. It's hard because there's a hole in my life." She might feel differently if her son had died from an automobile accident or illness, she said, but knowing he was shot to death takes a toll on the lives of Gilmore and her other children. The Gilmore's son, Elijah Demarcus, was diagnosed with stomach cancer a couple of years ago. "When somebody intentionally takes their life, that's a different struggle you go through, especially if you don't have any answers," she said. "Often you ask yourself why and what did he do that was so bad to cause someone to want to take his life? I deal with it every day. It's very emotional for a mother to lose a child tragically. It's hard, especially if you have siblings who want answers and you just don't have any." Gilmore said she prays a lot and reads books that deal with death and sudden loss. She also talks about the situation, and that helps, she said. "I find someone to listen, and I just talk. It's a struggle every day. I'm not going to say it's not. How can you get over the death of your child?" she said. "If you haven't experienced it, you can't know. I feel like as long as you don't stay depressed with it, you can handle it. "I know there are people out there that know what happened to him. I wish they'd come forward. It's been three years," Gilmore added. "I still have a lifetime. I really wish it would get solved. I don't want to die with a broken heart. That's my biggest fear. That's why I pray for justice to be done. Justice will prevail. It has to."