CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County man is accused of holding his former girlfriend against her will, and later contributing to the circumstances that led to her death last year.

Timothy Joseph White is accused of contributing to the wrongful death of Shana Brianne Cowley following an apparent argument they had last October. The suit was filed on Sept. 14 in Kanawha Circuit Court by Cowley's mother, Leetta Beachum, the administratrix of her estate.

According to court records, White, 23, a resident of Dunbar, were engaged in a "heated argument" while seated in White's Jeep Cherokee on Oct. 29 on the campus of West Virginia State University in Institute. The suit does not specify what the argument was about.

At a time not specified, White "unilaterally, and over Ms. Cowley's objection, decided to take [her] back to her home on Derrick's Creek Road in Pocatalico." During their 23 mile trip, Cowley told White "numerous times" she wanted out.

Cowley's request included her opening the door "on one or more occasions" and "threaten[ing] to jump out of the vehicle while it was moving." Though it was "reasonably foreseeable" that Cowley might exit the vehicle, Beachum alleges he continued toward Pocatalico.

About two miles from her home, Cowley, "compelled to attempt to escape from [White]," did in fact exit the Jeep while it was moving. Though records are unclear as to how fast White was driving, the resulting fall led to injuries that later contributed to Cowley's death.

According to her death certificate, Cowley died about two hours after she "initially exited [a] moving car" while a "rear seat passenger." Though her cause of death is listed as multiple injuries sustained from her fall, the manner of death is listed as undetermined.

At the time of her death, Cowley, 22, was a senior at WVSU majoring in chemistry and pre-medicine. The reigning Miss South Charleston, Cowley had hopes of starting chiropractic school this fall, according to a tribute page dedicated to her on the social networking site Facebook.

In November, the Charleston Daily Mail reported that the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department completed its investigation into Cowley's death and turned its findings over the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office. To date, White has not been charged with any crimes relating to Cowley's death.

In her suit, Beachum accuses White of negligence and false imprisonment. She alleges that White's actions not only resulted in her incurring "sorrow, metal anguish and solace", but also Cowley's funeral expenses.

Beachum seeks unspecified damages for both herself, and Cowley's estate. She is represented by Thomas R. Goodwin, Susan C. Wittemeier, Richard D. Owen and Suzanne Jett Trowbridge with the Charleston law firm of Goodwin and Goodwin.

The case is assigned to Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court, Case No. 09-C-1703

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