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Murdered teen's parents sue company that sold poison

Jan 19, 2006 | www/

The parents of a former Centennial High School student whose classmate murdered him in 2003 with potassium cyanide have filed a lawsuit seeking $2 million in damages from the Kentucky company that sold the killer the poison.

Walter Vassiliev and Karen Dale Barrett, the parents of Benjamin Vassiliev, filed suit Dec. 29 in Howard County Circuit Court against Antec Inc., of Louisville, Ky., the company that sold Ryan Furlough the potassium cyanide he used to murder the younger Vassiliev.

The suit also names Furlough's parents, Susan and Thomas Furlough, of Ellicott City, and Furlough's Ellicott City psychiatrist, Richard Bacharach, as defendants, and seeks an additional $2 million in damages from each.

As a result of Ben Vassiliev's murder, his parents have suffered "severe mental anguish and emotional pain," and been deprived of a relationship with their son, according to the suit.

"The main culprit here is Antec," said Paul Bekman, the Baltimore attorney who is representing Vassiliev's parents. "They are the ones who are shipping poison to minors in interstate commerce, without any verification, restriction or protocols. Your son or daughter, who is 14 years old, could call them up, use your credit card, and have them ship poison that can kill 20 people. I don't think that should be the case."

Walter Vassiliev referred questions on the suit to Bekman. Karen Dale Barrett could not be reached for comment.

Furlough sentenced to life

A Howard County jury convicted Furlough of first-degree murder in 2004 for fatally poisoning Vassiliev in 2003.

Judge Raymond Kane Jr. sentenced Furlough to life with the possibility of parole, because, he said, Furlough lacked a criminal record and deserved a chance to show that he might respond to rehabilitation.

Furlough, now 20, and Ben Vassiliev were best friends and classmates at Centennial High School.

At Furlough's May 2004 trial, prosecutors portrayed him as a cold-blooded killer who schemed to poison Vassiliev because he was jealous of Vassiliev's girlfriend.

Defense attorneys argued that crippling depression and high doses of the anti-depressant Effexor left Furlough incapable of reason Jan. 3, 2003, the day he put cyanide in a Vanilla Coke he offered to Vassiliev, who died from the poison five days later.

Negligence claimed in suit

The lawsuit seeks $2 million in damages from Antec Inc., alleging that the company was "negligent and careless" when it sold the potassium cyanide to Furlough.

The suit claims that Anetc failed to maintain detailed records of the sale, including the name of the buyer, the amount of poison sold, or the purpose for the purchase.

Antec "failed to exercise reasonable care in determining who the ultimate purchaser of said poison was to be and the purpose for which it was to be used," the suit states.

William Oesterriter, CEO of Antec Inc., said Jan. 13 that since his company had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit he could not respond to it.

The suit also claims that Bacharach, the psychiatrist who was treating Furlough for depression, is liable for Vassiliev's death because he failed to "disclose information regarding Ryan Furlough's dangerous propensity for violence against Benjamin Vassiliev ... ."

Bacharach did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Suit hurts Furlough family

Vassiliev's parents are suing the Furloughs because they failed to "control their minor child, Ryan Furlough, in his use of the Internet and of their credit card to purchase potassium cyanide knowing that he had previously misused their credit card," according to the suit.

Susan Furlough said her family was hurt by the lawsuit.

"I think it's very uncalled-for," she said. "I find it very upsetting. We've done nothing more than what most parents would do with their children. We've had a very hard three years. It never seems to stop and we've had more than our fair share of grief."

Furlough said she continues to blame the effects of Effexor for her son's behavior and hopes others will learn to avoid putting their children on the drug.

"Maybe people will start paying more attention to these drugs," she said. "Maybe some other families could be put through less grief."

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