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Wednesday, November 26, 1997

Father of slain girl sues hotel

Primadonna Resorts Inc. caters to families but fails to keep them safe, a lawsuit filed by LeRoy Iverson says.

By Caren Benjamin
Las Vegas Review-Journal

The father of slain 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson is suing Primadonna Resorts Inc., claiming the company designed its hotel-casino to lure families and entice parents to abandon their offspring, then failed to protect the children. The lawsuit filed Tuesday by LeRoy Iverson also accuses a Primadonna executive of defamation or slander for telling reporters that the grieving father had asked for cash and beer in return for not suing after his daughter's body was found.

Sherrice was raped and strangled May 25 in a restroom stall at the Primm Valley hotel in Primm, 43 miles south of Las Vegas on the California border. Jeremy Strohmeyer, a 19-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., is awaiting an April trial in connection with the slaying. Strohmeyer, who may be sentenced to death if convicted, is also named in the lawsuit. He met Sherrice in the hotel's video arcade, began joking around with her and then followed her into the women's restroom, according to testimony before a Clark County grand jury.

The slaying was fostered by an environment created "to invite adults with children as patrons," by "purposefully provid(ing) facilities and circumstances attractive to minors staying in the hotel," the lawsuit says. "Said facilities and circumstances are provided so as to permit, comfort and encourage parents to separate from their children." The problem is "by creating amusements for minors on their properties, defendants also attract persons who assault minors, including, but not limited to, Mr. Strohmeyer, onto the properties," the lawsuit says. Parents are duped because the hotel's "extensive and apparent security in the gaming and arcade areas creates an illusionary impression of high security throughout the hotel," the lawsuit continues. In reality, though, no one is watching the children, says the lawsuit, which asks for more than $10,000 in damages for negligent security and wrongful death.

Shortly after the slaying, Primadonna Chief Operating Officer Chris Gibase said a security officer found Sherrice wandering alone at Buffalo Bill's at 1:33 a.m. Iverson's family was paged, and her 14-year-old brother, Harold, came to the hotel security desk and picked her up. Police said the family then left Buffalo Bill's and went next door to Primm Valley.

"With regard to the allegations made in this new complaint by Mr. Iverson, we do not believe that any set of facts alleged by him will relieve him of his obligation to have properly supervised and watched over his child," Primadonna attorney Sal Gugino said.

Days after the slaying, a source close to the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity told a Review-Journal reporter that shortly after his daughter's body was found, Iverson attempted to negotiate for gifts from Primadonna officials in exchange for not filing a civil lawsuit. "He wanted 100 bucks, a room at the hotel, his daughter's funeral paid for, dinner for his 14-year-old and some beer," the source said. "He also wanted someone flown in from Los Angeles. Everyone was stunned and shocked (at the requests)."

The lawsuit claims the source of that commentary was Gibase, and that by making those statements he caused Leroy Iverson to "suffer severe emotional distress" and damage to his reputation.

To that charge Gugino countered, "The company stands squarely behind his previous statements and believes that we shall be able to stand vindicated at the time of trial."

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