Families sue over homicides

August 22, 2002 11:00 pm

By AMY LINDBLOM

A Wallace man facing murder charges in connection with the shooting deaths of two neighboring women over a property dispute now faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims' families.

Peter Chiesa, 63, and his wife, Donna Chiesa, 42, are named in a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the families of Annette Truman and Leslie Hannameyer. The two women were killed June 25 while they were clearing tree trimmings left in a driveway the three families shared.

If found guilty of the double homicide, Chiesa could receive the death penalty.

According to Calaveras County Sheriff's Department reports, Chiesa shot and killed the two friends and neighbors as they removed logs and debris from eucalyptus trees Chiesa had trimmed.

The civil suit alleges that Chiesa inflicted emotional distress on the victims' two sons, one of whom, Ben Truman, not only witnessed the shootings, but was shot at by Chiesa as he ran to get help for his dying mother.

The suit also alleges Chiesa and his wife had for years "regularly littered the driveway with logs, cuttings and debris making passage virtually impossible (for the Hannameyer and Truman families)."

"Peter Chiesa did willfully and maliciously lay in wait for the (children) for the purpose of startling and frightening the children as they walked or rode along the driveway, discouraging them from their right to be on the easement," the lawsuit states.

According to Gary Gallawa, the Sacramento attorney representing the victims' families, the driveway easement was clearly documented in property deeds filed with the Calaveras County Assessor's office.

"It was an escalating dispute for years, and Mr. Chiesa did not acknowledge or accept the Hannameyer and Truman families need for that easement," Gallawa said from his office. "There way no way in or out of their homes except through the driveway."

Gallawa said a man who previously owned the Hannameyer property filed a civil lawsuit against Chiesa over the easement and won. Yet, he said, Chiesa and his wife proceeded to engage in "unlawful interference with the (Truman and Hannameyer families) use and possession of the easement and their driveway."