US & Canada

Megan Rondini's family sue over Alabama rape case

Megan Rondini is pictured in this undated photo. Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Megan Rondini was planning to go to medical school, her parents say

The parents of an Alabama student who killed herself after claiming she was raped have sued her alleged attacker and local officials for wrongful death.

The University of Alabama and the sheriff's office mishandled Megan Rondini's case, her parents say.

Ms Rondini, then a 20-year-old student, claimed she was sexually assaulted by a local man at his home in July 2015.

The lawsuit claims police treated her as a crime suspect instead of a victim and the school failed to support her.

According to the lawsuit, Ms Rondini met Terry Bunn Jr at a popular Tuscaloosa bar and was sexually assaulted and possibly drugged at his home.

Mr Bunn, who maintained the encounter was consensual, was not charged.

Image copyright Rondini family
Image caption Ms Rondini hanged herself shortly after transferring to a Texas college in February 2016

Upon leaving Mr Bunn's house, Ms Rondini said she took his gun to protect herself and $3 from his wallet to pay for a taxi home.

Her parents claim police wrongly focused on her actions after the incident and were sympathetic towards Mr Bunn, whose family owns a local construction company.

Cindy and Michael Rondini allege that Mr Bunn evaded prosecution because of his family's local prominence.

Cindy Rondini told CBS News on Wednesday she drove from Texas to Alabama after the incident to comfort her daughter, who said she felt that police thought she was at fault.

"It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life," Mrs Rondini said.

"Megan ultimately was treated as a crime suspect and her status as a victim of a sex crime was completely disregarded," the lawsuit contends.

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Media captionMegan Rondini faced 'disdain and disbelief' from police

The 25-page legal action, filed on Monday, names Mr Bunn, the Tuscaloosa County sheriff, a sheriff's deputy, a sheriff's office investigator and two university employees.

It claims the sheriff's office did not take Megan Rondini's claims seriously and the university failed to give her adequate psychological treatment and support.

Ms Rondini left the university and returned home to Austin, Texas, where she suffered depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, directly leading to her suicide, say her parents.

She hanged herself shortly after transferring to a college in Texas in February 2016.

The university told CBS News that school officials "handled their responsibilities with care at all times keeping Megan's wellbeing as their absolute highest priority".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The University of Alabama says it "handled their responsibilities with care at all times"

Mr Bunn's lawyer denied the accusation in a statement.

"The allegations against my client as set forth in this baseless lawsuit are simply false," said the attorney, W Ivey Gilmore. "No sexual assault occurred."

The Rondinis say any money won in the lawsuit would be donated to groups to support rape victims.

Her case was raised last week on the floor of Congress.

Texas Republican Ted Poe, chairman of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, said Ms Rondini "got the death penalty" after investigators treated her "with disdain and disbelief".

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