A Palm Harbor woman, who was shot in the leg by her ex-husband before he shot and killed himself, is suing her ex-husband's estate for damages. James A. Dee, 49, walked into Hair Connections salon in Palm Harbor on March 19 and argued with his former wife, Joyce E. Dee. He shot Mrs. Dee in the leg before he shot himself in the head with a small-caliber handgun.
In the lawsuit, filed Monday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, Mrs. Dee accuses her ex-husband of negligence, and assault and battery in the shooting. She asks a judge to award her damages of more than $10,000 for injuries she received from the shooting.
Dee didn't mean to shoot his ex-wife, her attorney, Robert J. Carroll said Tuesday. That is why the lawsuit is alleging negligence, he said.
"He wanted to make a rather dramatic exit in her presence," Carroll said.
If Dee had planned to kill his wife, Carroll said, he easily could have shot and killed her while they were alone in the back room of the hair salon.
Carroll said he did not think his client should discuss the lawsuit.
Since the shooting, Mrs. Dee has tried to keep her business operating, despite injuries to her leg that make walking and standing difficult, Carroll said.
He said Mrs. Dee has lost a lot of mobility because of her injury and has trouble negotiating the steps inside her condominium.
The Dee's were divorced amicably in 1989, 10 years after they were married in Michigan. The year of their divorce, Dee wrote a will leaving everything to his mother, sister and brother, all of whom live in Michigan, according to court records.
Dee named his friend, Wayne K. Buehler of Seminole, as personal representative for the estate, according to court records. Buehler's attorney, George F. Wilsey, said Tuesday that he could not comment on the case because he has not seen the lawsuit.
Dee's brother, John Geisler, who lives in Michigan, said that he was not happy about his former sister-in-law's claim on the estate.
"We are not too thrilled about her getting any more," he said, adding that Mrs. Dee got the couple's business in the divorce settlement.
Records show that Dee left an estate, which includes a condominium and a car, valued at an estimated $98,000. There are several claims on the estate, including $6,200.64 that his mother is owed for funeral arrangements, and $4,336.60 owed to Barnett Bank on a loan.
According to police reports at the time, Dee showed up at the Hair Connections salon on U.S. 19 on March 19 with a birthday card for Mrs. Dee, who was to turn 50 in two days.
They went to the back of the salon where they began to talk and then argued. When Dee pulled the gun, Mrs. Dee yelled for someone to dial 911 and then struggled with him over the gun.
Customers and employees bolted out the door when they saw the gun. Mrs. Dee was heading for the back door when Dee fired his first shot at the floor. It apparently hit the floor, then ricocheted into Mrs. Dee's knee. His second shot went into the ceiling.
It was then that Dee turned the gun on himself.