KINGWOOD, W.Va. — A suit filed in 2014 by the father of a Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy cadet who died after leaving the academy has been set for trial in July.

Gaitlin Jones was 17 when he attended the academy, which is at Camp Dawson and run by the West Virginia National Guard. Jones left the academy July 18, 2012. His body was found July 30, near the Cheat River.

His father, George Jones, and the estate filed a civil suit in Preston Circuit Court two years later against the academy and the guard. Preston Memorial was sued originally but later dropped from the suit.

At a hearing  Monday, Preston Circuit Judge Steve Shaffer asked attorneys for each side if a third round of mediation might settle the suit? Attorney Rusty Webb,  who represents Jones, and Gary Pullin, for the defendants, said they would continue to work “both formally and informally,” toward a resolution.

Meanwhile, Shaffer set dates to hear  motions and other pre-trial matters. He set July 16 as the opening day of what the attorneys project will be a five-day trial.

Pullin filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting that the case be dismissed. Webb said he was filing motions by mail Monday making additional allegations and amending the complaint. Pullin objected that it is, “just way too late to amend the complaint and add allegations.”

The judge will rule on the motions at a later hearing.

The academy  is a free, 22-week, quasi-military, residential program for academically challenged West Virginia high school students.

As previously reported, attorneys for George Jones said MCA should have known his son was at risk if he left the grounds. The cadet was allergic to bee stings, had recently had an asthma attack, had been at a hospital for high blood pressure and was given Valium, and had a friend who recently committed suicide, making him a suicide risk, Jones said in the suit.

Story by Kathy Plum

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