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Lawsuit hits former Aloha softball coach who ran away with girl

Young woman seeks nearly $6 million from coaches, association

Federal prisoner No. 68453-065 has a new problem on his hands.

Andrew J. Garver, the 41-year-old former Aloha softball coach who ran away three years ago with one of his 15-year-old players, is a defendant in a $6 million lawsuit filed this month by the former Beaverton girl who was with him for more than nine months on the road.

Michelle 'MiMi' Smith is suing Garver, the Aloha Baseball and Softball Association, ASA/USA Softball Association, Rebecca Dawson of the association and former coach Dean Meier in Washington County circuit court, seeking a total of $6.2 million in damages, claiming she was abused and now needs psychological counseling.

Smith, who turns 19 on Sunday, claimed in her 11-page lawsuit filed Sept. 8 that Garver abused her for months as they were on the run across the country in his leased blue 2003 Nissan Murano.

Smith asked for damages from Meier for abuse in 2001.

She also claims that Dawson and the softball associations were negligent by not keeping a tighter rein on coaches like Garver and Meier.

Garver, Dawson, Meier and the softball associations have not yet responded to the lawsuit in circuit court. In the past three years, Dawson and the association have denied any wrongdoing and said Garver was acting on his own.

Smith was 15 on Sept. 26, 2003, when she and Garver, then 39, disappeared from his Aloha home.

Their families immediately began a nationwide manhunt for the pair led by the Beaverton Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The search eventually involved a Los Angeles private detective hired by a Burbank, Calif., television production company and Honolulu bounty hunter Duane 'Dog' Chapman.

Smith and Garver's story also was featured on several national television programs.

Garver was coach of Smith's Aloha Angels softball team. Police believed the two developed an intimate relationship during a time when Smith was having family problems and decided to run away.

They were eventually found June 23, 2004, in Knoxville, Tenn., after a minor traffic accident on a slick, rainy street. The two were posing as 'cousins.' Smith worked at a downtown health club, where she told co-workers she was a 20ish college student. People who worked with Smith were later astonished to learn that she was barely 16 at the time.

Garver eventually was returned in federal custody to Oregon and pled guilty in November 2004 to a federal charge of crossing state lines to have sex with a minor. He also pled guilty in February 2005 to state charges of third-degree rape, third-degree sodomy, second-degree custodial interference and first-degree theft.

He was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Garver is serving that time in McCreary U.S. Prison in Pine Knot, Ky. He could be released in August 2009.

According to her lawsuit, Smith claims that between 2003 and 2004, Garver subjected her to abuse and kept her from contacting her family. She leveled a similar charge at Meier, who pleaded guilty in April 2002 to a charge connected with a September 2001 incident of abuse.

Smith is seeking $100,000 each from all four defendants in economic damages. She also is seeking $350,000 from Meier and $2.85 million from Dawson and the two softball associations for non-economic damages.

Smith is seeking $2.5 million from Garver in non-economic damages.

No court date has been set for the lawsuit.

Irony at the end

Andrew J. Garver's nine-month dash across the nation with Michelle Smith three years ago has ironically come to an end less than 100 miles from where the two were discovered.

Garver, 41, is a prisoner in the McCreary U.S. Penitentiary in Pine Knot, Ky. That high-security prison is 88 miles north of Knoxville, Tenn., the city where they landed months after leaving Oregon.

Garver was sentenced in November 2004 and again in February 2005 to nearly six years on state and federal charges of rape, sodomy, custodial interference and crossing state lines to have sex with a minor. He is serving both federal and state sentences at the same time in the McCreary prison.

He could be released in mid-August 2009.

Garver and Smith ran away in late September 2003 and drove across the nation in his leased blue 2003 Nissan Murano. They lived in an apartment behind a house in Knoxville. Smith told the couple who rented the apartment that she was a 20ish college student and Garver was her cousin.

They were discovered by a rookie police officer after a minor traffic accident in June 2004. Garver turned himself in to police after the accident. The Murano had license plates that had been stolen from a Jaguar.