He was 14-years-old and one of the victims of a brutal home invasion attack. He heard the gunshot that killed his father, when four intruders posing as interested buyers of a ring posted for sale on Craigslist held his family hostage.
Jimmy Sanders, now 16, told KIRO TV he has PTSD. It’s not surprising. He, his stepmother Charlene, and his then-11-year-old stepbrother Chandler witnessed the violent escalation that led to his father’s death.
But his uncle, Derek, said the family just wants him back. A short time after his father died, Jimmy moved back in with his mother, Pam Knoll. Together, Jimmy and Knoll have filed a lawsuit against Charlene, because Jimmy hasn’t received any money from a fund set up in Jim Sanders’ name.
They say he should get half, because donations to the fund were expected to go to the family, not just Charlene. Charlene was set up as the beneficiary of the fund established at the salon where she worked.
Jimmy told KIRO TV that he would use the money for a new car, college, and maybe one day his wedding.
According to Derek, there just isn’t that kind of money in the fund.
“There was originally, probably enough to replace a couple months of my brothers wages,” Derek told The Ron & Don Show. “[Charlene] used that to pay bills, a couple credit cards – debt things that they had, because she knew she was going to be on a single person’s income going forward.”
What money is left in the fund now has not been disclosed to the public.
Attorney Anne Bremner, who does not represent Knoll and Jimmy in the lawsuit filed against Charlene, but who is helping determine whether a separate lawsuit should be filed, said the amount of money doesn’t matter.
“We’ve never really heard from Pam in the past, but she’s Jimmy’s mom,” Bremner told Ron & Don. “They’re simply saying that they’re part of the family too,” whether it’s $5 or $5,000.
Derek was eager to tell the other side of the story. When the initial report was aired Tuesday, TV crews had not yet been able to speak to Charlene Sanders, who was working that day.
For Derek, there are concerns that it’s only about money – and it’s not about family. He said that’s how it’s been since day one. While he can’t speak to his brother’s relationship with his ex-wife, or any other family member’s relationship with Knoll, Derek said that the actions he’s observed have been “vengeful.”
The lawsuit filed against Charlene isn’t the only lawsuit in the works. Derek said that Charlene has already declined to file a lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Corrections. “We’re not interested in turning Jim’s death into profit.”
While Derek said that Knoll and Jimmy were moving forward with the other lawsuit, Bremner, who is working on that case, said that Charlene is still considering action, if any is even taken regarding the DOC.
In the past two years since Jim passed away, Derek said he’s only seen Jimmy about 10 times. Several of those occasions took place at the criminal court proceedings of those found guilty for Jim’s death.
But Derek wants more of a relationship with his nephew.
“We have told Jimmy that we would love to have a relationship with him, we would love to be able to see him. We care about him, we pray about him on a regular basis. But it’s going to have to be him stepping up to his mom saying, ‘I know what I need. I need family and I need support.'”
Derek said that Charlene hopes that mediation is an option. It’s the process they’re trying to move forward with now.
As for things Jimmy wants to pay for – the car, college, his wedding – Derek said he hopes Jimmy will realize that he should live by his father’s example.
He wants Jimmy to think about the way his dad raised him. “He’s going to have to stand up and become a man.”
Exterior Photo: AP Photo/The News Tribune, Drew Perine