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Caroline attorney sues victim's family
Long-standing split between Caroline lawyer and vegetable farmer continues, even after farmer's death in shooting

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Date published: 8/9/2004

When John Ames first met the man he admits killing, the two shook hands.

It was the summer of 1985, and the Richmond bankruptcy lawyer had just bought Holly Hill, a Caroline County farm, at auction. Vegetable farmer Perry Brooks approached Ames on that June day and introduced himself.

Brooks said he owned the adjacent farm. They'd be neighbors, he said.

Years later, they would disagree in court about details of their conversation in that first meeting. But those who knew the two men say a relationship started by a handshake became a bitter feud.

Though it may have climaxed April 19, when Brooks was shot and killed after reportedly going to retrieve a stray bull loose on Ames' farm, this neighbor-versus-neighbor drama is far from finished. It's back in court, where it often played out during the 1990s.

"This has been the history of it," said Benjamin Dick, an attorney assisting in Ames' defense. "The court has to intervene."

Ames, 59, is free on $100,000 bond, facing charges of first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony in Brooks' death. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17.

Nineteen days later, he'll be back in court to set a date for civil proceedings stemming from the slaying.

Brooks' wife, Evelyn, has sued Ames for $10 million, charging that Ames acted recklessly and negligently when he shot her husband.

Dick said he believes the lawsuit is part of a continuing attack against Ames and his family.

"No longer will Mr. Brooks stir it up," Dick said. "It's going to be lawyers for the Brooks family who are going to chase Mr. Ames."

John Shea, an attorney for Evelyn Brooks and her two daughters, said Dick has things backward: Ames is the one who harassed Brooks.

"They simply intend to hold accountable the man who took away someone who was very precious to all three of them," Shea said of the lawsuit.

In court documents, Ames admits shooting the 74-year-old, but claims he was defending himself against a "violent attack."

Shea said Brooks went to Ames' farm with two acquaintances and a 2-year-old relative. Ames drove up in a pickup, Shea said. Brooks was under court order to stay off Ames' property.

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