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Blackwater faces lawsuits from grieving guard families

Monsters And Critics Dot Com (2007-11-08) Karen Chenoweth

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By Karyn Chenoweth Nov 8, 2007, 14:50 GMT

The mother of a Blackwater guard who was mutilated and killed by a mob in Iraq is demanding that the company answer her questions.

Donna Zovko also hopes that she will get some answers on how and why her son died. Blackwater officials have not been forthcoming, she says to CNN.

After seeing Donna Zovko's story on CNN, Blackwater Chairman Erik Prince said of her: "I would be willing to meet with her without media present, out of fear of it becoming a media circus."

"I would like that. It would be one of my prayers answered. Maybe he'll tell me the truth," she says.

Donna Zovko adds: "Why does it have to be 44 months before they tell us anything?"

Donna Zovko told CNN she found some comfort in an image of her son's body before the mobs got to him. His eyes were closed, his mouth open, as if he were calling God "to take his soul."

Jerry Zovko, a former Army Ranger, had gone to Iraq as a security contractor to train Iraqi soldiers. When that contract ended in late 2003, he signed on with a different company, Blackwater, according to his mother.

CNN reports that during a mission in Falluja, he and his comrades Scott Helvenston, Mike Teague and Wesley Batalona were killed when they were ambushed in their two vehicles as they escorted three empty flatbed trucks.

Donna Zovko, a Croatian immigrant whose original name is Danica, told CNN that Blackwater chief Prince paid a personal visit to her to inform her of her son's death. Prince also attended the funeral, and the company held a memorial service.

After that ceremony, she said, she and her family were taken to a private room where they asked for more details about the events surrounding her son's death to no avail.

Blackwater has taken issue with the House report. The incident in Falluja "was a tragedy in which no one -- but the terrorists -- are to blame," the company said in a recent statement.

Today, Blackwater's Prince added this: "I was communicating with her all the way up until the time the lawsuit was filed." CNN writes that the Zovko family disputes this.

According to CNN, Donna Zovko and the three other families who lost their sons in the Falluja ambush have sued Blackwater, alleging the company failed to provide their loved ones with adequate gear, weaponry and support.

Blackwater denies the allegations and claims the men agreed to assume the risks of working in a war zone.

CNN reports that Donna Zovko met Pope John Paul II in August 2004 after her son was killed and he told her "God has accepted Jerry's soul" -- comforting words that still give her peace.

"It was a big gift for me to see the Holy Father and to meet the Holy Father, but for the truth of my Jerry's death, I'd give it back," Donna Zovko said to CNN.

Topic revision: r1 - 2007-11-12, CathyMiller
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