SEVIERVILLE — It’s been a year since 19-year-old Savannah Burford was killed in the parking lot of Sunliner Diner, and while her accused killer has not faced criminal charges he has filed his own response to a civil suit brought by her family.
Gabriel Enrique Turcios, 19, has been in the Sevier County Jail since Jan. 8, 2020, charged with first-degree murder.
Pigeon Forge Police said he followed Burford out of the restaurant where both of them worked and killed her in the busy parking lot as she walked to her mother’s car.
Turcios’s next court date for those charges is currently set for March. His case was moved to Sevier County Circuit Court after he waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Like most criminal cases, it’s been in limbo since then as many court proceedings were rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burford’s parents filed a civil complaint in circuit court against the diner and Turcios, saying that Turcios had been stalking their daughter and the restaurant staff did nothing to stop his behavior.
Turcios, using the stilted language commonly used in lawsuits, denies he stalked Burford or that he killed her.
“Defendant denies the allegations of ‘aggressive stalking behavior toward plaintiff Burford’ and strict proof is demanded there of,” he writes in response to one allegation.
Attorneys for Sunliner Diner denied the restaurant was responsible, and also said managers weren’t aware of any threatening behavior by Turcios before the incident.
“(Turcios) did not perform any prior acts that would be deemed foreseeable to place a reasonable person on notice of any serious or substantial risk of harm to Savannah Burford or others,” attorney Jon Cope wrote.
The diner’s response does say Turcios was responsible for Burford’s death.
Both Turcios and Sunliner Diner acknowledge that he had not been scheduled to work that day.
Burford’s family alleges Turcios came in to work because he knew she was present.
Cope responded that Sunliner Diner officials had no way of knowing why Turcios asked to work when he wasn’t on the schedule,and Turcios denies that was his reason for taking an extra shift.
The family is seeking more than $10 million in the lawsuit.
Contact Jeff Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at @jeffmtnpress