Little is known about Karla Brada before the night of September 11, 2011. But that night, she was smothered to death by Eric Earle, her boyfriend, in their Santa Clarita condominium. This story isn’t a run-of-the-mill murder scenario, however. Brada and Earle were both members of AA, and now Brada’s parents are suing AA.
Why Are Brada’s Parents Suing AA?
Brada’s parents, Hector and Jaroslava Mendez, don’t necessarily blame AA for the death of their daughter. However, they’re suing AA for negligence. Named defendants in the case are:
- AA World Services, Inc. (based in New York City, NY)
- The local AA office in Santa Clarita, CA
- Brada’s and Earle’s sponsors, Patrick and Joanne Fry
For Hector and Jaroslava Mendez, suing AA is about letting people know that there are criminals that populate AA’s rooms. Earle, who’s been convicted of Brada’s murder and is now serving 26 years in prison, had a history of violence. In fact, his history of violence had included both another ex-girlfriend and his wife.
Is AA to Blame?
The Mendezes take the view that Brada and Earle’s sponsors, Patrick and Joanne Fry, knew about Earle’s violent history. Yet, they did nothing to stop this violent criminal from courting Karla Brada. In fact, Brada’s parents claim that the Frys “facilitated a romantic relationship” between the two.
Brada’s parents say they hope suing AA will serve to let people know what they’re getting involved in. From their point of view, Karla and Eric’s sponsors are responsible for “treating and counseling” their sponsees. They failed to do this, “thereby allowing the abuse to continue and escalate as to directly and proximately cause death of [Karla Brada].”
Is This a Misunderstanding of AA?
There is no denying that Karla Brada’s murder is heartbreaking, and this is certainly not an attempt to make light of it. However, it seems that her parents may have misunderstood the nature of AA. As officers of the Santa Clarita AA office have expressed, it is not the role of a sponsor to counsel or treat an alcoholic. It is neither their job to give relationship advice or to prevent alcoholics from forming romantic relationships.
What About Criminals in AA?
As to whether AA ought to allow criminals in its rooms, the traditions of AA are clear: the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. However, what this means for safety is not so simple. Allowing criminals into AA is bound to make people uncomfortable, and there may be no easy way to allay their discomfort. If we don’t allow criminals into AA, are we neglecting our responsibilities to the sick and suffering alcoholic? If we do, does this lead to deaths like Karla Brada’s? What will the lawsuit mean for the future of AA?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this incredibly heartbreaking story. As always, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrible tragedy.