Friday, July 12, 2002
Tampa, Fla. Talk show host Jerry Springer was sued Wednesday by the son of a former guest, killed by her ex-husband hours after the airing of an episode the couple had appeared on involving love triangles.
Jeffrey Campbell of Kalamazoo, Mich., alleged that "The Jerry Springer Show" episode on which Nancy Campbell-Panitz appeared created "a mood that led to murder."
A spokeswoman for the program said that neither the show nor its producers were responsible for the death.
Ralf Panitz, 42, was convicted of second-degree murder and received a life sentence in May for the July 24, 2000, beating death of his ex-wife. The show had been taped in May 2000.
The lawsuit said the show encouraged Ralf Panitz, who appeared on the episode with his new wife, to lie to Campbell-Panitz in order to get her to appear.
The suit claims Campbell-Panitz thought she was on the show to reconcile with Ralf Panitz. Instead, she learned that her ex-husband had secretly married Eleanor Panitz in March 2000.
Campbell-Panitz stormed off the stage as she was mocked by Eleanor Panitz and jeered by the audience.
Panitz and Campbell-Panitz divorced in 1999 but still lived together off and on, even after he remarried. The trio spent months filing a flurry of domestic violence allegations against each other as Ralf Panitz bounced between the two women.
Prosecutors say that Ralf Panitz, upset about having to move his belongings out of Campbell-Panitz's home, choked and beat her to death after watching the episode on TV at a bar, where he was drinking heavily.
Springer spokeswoman Linda Shafran on Wednesday noted the murder came three months after the show was taped.
"Many events occurred that were totally unrelated to the show, making it clear that neither the show, Jerry Springer or the producers were responsible in any way for this tragedy even if we are an easy and convenient target," Shafran said.
The suit, filed in Sarasota County court, also names the Chicago-based show and Los Angeles-based Studios USA Television Distribution LLC.