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Lawsuit filed in murder-suicide

Families seek $8 million in claim brought against Clackamas County, sheriff, undersheriff and lieutenant

Two years after three people died at the hands of a Clackamas County deputy sheriff in a murder-suicide in Gresham, a wrongful death civil lawsuit has been filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The $8 million claim was filed Thursday, Feb. 9, on behalf of the families of Kathleen Hoffmeister and Victoria Schulmerich.

The claim is against Clackamas County, but also specifies Sheriff Craig Roberts, Undersheriff David Kirby and Lt. Graham Phalen, who all had some level of oversight of deputy Sgt. Jeffrey Grahn.

On Feb. 12, 2010, Grahn, 46, a Clackamas County Sheriff's deputy, went to the M and M Lounge, 137 N. Main St., Gresham, and argued with his wife, Charlotte, 47, who was sitting with Hoffmeister and Schulmerich, both 53.

Grahn, later proven legally intoxicated, then grabbed his wife by her hair and pulled her outside the bar, where he shot her in the head at close range.

He then re-entered the bar and shot the other two women in the head. Returning to his wife's body, he turned the gun on himself. Hoffmeister and the two Grahns died at the scene, while Schulmerich died at a local hospital two weeks later.

The court filing asks $3.5 million for each of the women's families for loss of companionship and pain and suffering, as well as nearly $1 million for the two families for lost earnings and expenses.

The claim states Sgt. Grahn 'was of violent disposition, emotionally unstable and suicidal.' It also states he had substance abuse problems with alcohol and drugs and had threatened his wife and abused her physically and verbally.

In May 2009, the Portland Police Bureau conducted a month-long investigation, and reported that extended family members confirmed Grahn's drug and alcohol use, domestic abuse and suicidal actions.

But since his wife would not confirm the abuse or say anything against her husband, the police bureau concluded 'there is not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges.'

In answer to Thursday's lawsuit, a spokesperson for the department said county counsel will not allow a statement to be given until this legal action is concluded.

Instead, Thursday's press release detailed three actions the department initiated in 1999, 2001 and 2002 to prevent domestic violence.

The family of Charlotte Grahn had until 5 p.m. (two hours past press time) Friday, Feb. 10, to file a similar suit.



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