By Denise Bohn (email@example.com)
5:46 PM EST, February 26, 2013
WATERVLIET, Mich. – A Watervliet family whose son was killed last year wins a libel suit in Berrien County court this week.
Last March, 21-year-old Tyler Carr passed out in a field and was run over after a party in Pipestone Township.
A woman wrote a negative letter about the family in a Southwest Michigan newspaper.
Carr's parents were upset and filed suit.
The letter appeared in the May 31st edition of the Tri-City Record, a newspaper in the Watervliet area with more than 2,200 subscribers.
The lengthy article was written by Virginia Hauf, who at the time lived in Coloma.
She claimed the Carr family was exploiting Tyler's death and did not use fundraiser money to pay for Tyler's funeral and expenses as promised.
The Carr family says the accusations are false and only added insult to an already grieving family.
"It was really shock and anger, and of course a lot of pain that came with that letter," said Karla Carr, Tyler's stepmother.
In the letter Hauf wrote, "The Carr's held a 'fundraiser" on Facebook to help with the costs of Tyler's expenses." She continued, "In the end they raised $3,000 to $4,000.
Where did that go? And what was it used for? Tyler's biological mother paid all the expenses for his Celebration of Life," wrote Hauf.
"That's not true at all," Carr insists. "She also said I didn't go out to the scene, (where Tyler's body was found) which really bothers us."
Carr says when they learned about the letter they went out late and night and picked up a copy.
"We were up all night, marking the details that weren't correct," said Carr. "That letter literally made us prisoners in our own home."
The letter came just two months after Tyler Carr's body was found in a field off of Fairfield Road in Pipestone Township following a party. Investigators said Carr had been run over. The Carr family pushed police to file charges against the driver, but the prosecutor claimed what happened was a tragic accident.
"It just made it so much harder," Carr explained. "All my family is just trying to heal and all of this kind of stuff just hinders it."
Karla Carr and her husband sued Hauf for libel and emotional distress and this week were awarded an $81,000 judgment.
Carr says the suit wasn't about money, but about accountability.
"It's about thinking twice, about you know, before you hurt other people, especially no one knows the pain we've been in."
The Carr family is now considering suing the Tri-City Record for publishing the letter.
Karl Bayer has owned the paper for 28 years.
He says he sympathizes with the family, but that "everybody is entitled to an opinion."
Bayer says he uses his best judgment to decide what letters should be published.
He said Hauf signed the letter and was a subscriber to the paper.
The Carr family wants a retraction from Bayer. However, he says he won't do one.
Attempts to reach Hauf were not successful.
The Carr's attorney, Kevin Anderson, said his office was told Hauf moved to Las Vegas.
Anderson says Hauf was not in court Monday for the proceedings and did not have an attorney represent her in the case.
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