BY: Tamara Lush
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The parents and estate of a young woman who shot herself after she faced harsh questioning from talk-show host Nancy Grace have dismissed a lawsuit against CNN and the host.
According to court records, the settlement calls for Grace to establish a $200,000 trust dedicated to finding Melinda Duckett’s missing son, Trenton, who was 2 when he disappeared.
The lawsuit accused Grace, whose show airs on CNN’s sister network HLN, of inflicting emotional distress on the 21-year-old mother with her questions about the missing boy. Grace accused the woman of hiding something because Duckett did not take a lie-detector test and answered vaguely about her whereabouts when the boy disappeared from her apartment.
Police later named Duckett the prime suspect in the boy’s disappearance.
Duckett shot herself the day the taped interview was scheduled to broadcast — Sept. 8, 2006. Duckett had reported the boy missing less than two weeks earlier.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Ocala four years ago. The settlement agreement between Grace and the Duckett family lawyers was filed Friday and still needs a federal judge’s approval. The trial was scheduled to begin next month.
If Trenton is found alive before his 13th birthday, proceeds from the trust will transfer to him for his benefit. If he is not found by the time he would turn 13 in 2017 — or if he is found dead before then — then the remaining money will be transferred to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
CNN said in a statement Monday that network officials were pleased the lawsuit has been dismissed.
“After four years of litigation and extensive discovery, the parties now agree that Nancy Grace, the producers of her program, and CNN engaged in no intentional wrongdoing in the course of dedicating a program to finding the missing toddler, as alleged in the lawsuit,” Jay Paul Deratany, a lawyer representing Duckett’s family and estate, said in a statement.
Deratany’s statement was sent to The Associated Press by CNN. He declined further comment.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.