Defendant fires back in wrongful death suit

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — A defendant in a wrongful death suit has filed a counterclaim for slander, and county officials have been voluntarily dismissed from the suit.

In March, Dobson resident Terena Dawn Wood filed suit against the State Road Volunteer Fire Department, Surry County EMS officials, State Road Fire officials and a couple once employed by the volunteer fire department.

Wood alleges State Road Fire Department members Rhonda and Michael Cochran failed to act when her daughter, Megan Danielle Wood, informed them she was suicidal. Megan Wood committed suicide on May 25, 2014, at the age of 26.

In Wood’s claim, she alleges Michael Cochran had a sexual relationship with her daughter. She also alleges the relationship was fueled by Rhonda Cochran’s intent to also have a sexual relationship with the 26-year-old and that the Cochrans were in an “open relationship,” or were “swingers.”

Now Rhonda Cochran is firing back. In early August she filed an answer, which denies any allegations of wrongdoing which led to Megan Wood’s death and asks the court for more than $25,000 in damages which have resulted from what Cochran deems false accusations made by Terena Wood in the suit.

In short, Cochran denies she was in an open relationship with husband Michael, and claims a different role in the manner in which the relationship between Michael Cochran and Megan Wood unravelled.

“Defendant Rhonda Cochran admits that on May 24, 2014, that she followed her husband, Michael Cochran, to decedant’s (Megan Wood’s) apartment and confronted them about whether or not they were involved in a romantic sexual relationship and she demanded that the defendant leave she and her husband alone,” reads Cochran’s answer.

Terena Wood claimed Rhonda Cochran went to the apartment in hopes of seducing Megan Wood into a sexual relationship with her as well.

Cochran also claims she took steps to ensure Wood did not carry out her suicidal intent, such as alerting Terena Dawn Wood via Facebook and calling the Surry County 911 communications center while she and her husband were at a race in Charlotte on the evening Wood took her own life.

While she denies playing a role in the sexual relationship and any wrongdoing in Megan Wood’s death, Rhonda Cochran also alleges Terena Wood has damaged her emotionally and has damaged her reputation.

Cochran claims Terena Wood has publicized her daughter’s death on social media outlets and published false statements about Cochran.

Cochran claims Wood has sent multiple pictures of her daughter’s body to her, including a picture which depicted “both the body of her daughter as well as the blood soaked carpet and body fragments at the scene of her death.”

The counterclaim alleges Terena Wood’s conduct following her daughter’s death, and Megan Wood’s relationship with a man she knew to be married, have inflicted severe emotional distress on Rhonda Cochran, which has led to medical treatment and bills.

The counterclaim asks for relief from Megan Wood’s estate and Terena Wood individually.

“The false and slanderous statements of the Plaintiff-Counter-Defendant (Terena Wood) about Defendant-Counter-Plaintiff (Rhonda Cochran) were made with malice in an attempt to damage Defendant-Counter-Plaintiff (Cochran) and, in fact, did damage Defendant-Counter-Plaintiff’s (Cochran’s) reputation, as they accuse the Defendant-Counter-Plaintiff (Cochran) of a criminal act involving moral turpitude.”

The answer and counterclaim asks all claims against Rhonda Cochran be dismissed, and the court grant her relief in excess of $25,000 for the emotional distress and defamation of character Terena Wood’s allegedly false statements have caused Cochran.

The counterclaim also alleges Terena Wood has made statements insinuating Rhonda Cochran played an active role in her daughter’s death, though Wood’s complaint even notes both Cochrans were 90 miles away at the time of Megan Wood’s death.

Cochran’s attorney, Dudley A. Witt, described the entire case as “a tragic set of circumstances.”

He said photos sent to Cochran and false allegations which have circulated about her involvement have severely emotionally damaged his client. All of this happened after Cochran learned her husband was being unfaithful, something about which she had no knowledge until she followed her husband to Megan Wood’s apartment the night before the young woman committed suicide.

County dismissed

Additional action in the suit also came in August, when two county EMS officials were voluntarily dismissed from the suit.

Terena Wood’s complaint had alleged EMS Director John Shelton and Assistant Director Myron Waddell were, in part, responsible for Megan Wood’s death because of their role in training emergency response personnel in the county.

Michael Cochran was an Emergency Medical Technician with the State Road Volunteer Fire Department, according to court documents. However, he garnered his EMT license only after an appeal process, due to his past as a sex offender.

The suit includes a case of negligent hiring by the State Road Department, since department officials aided Cochran in getting his license then hired him while having knowledge of his past as a sex offender. It also sought relief from the county officials, due to their role in training emergency response personnel.

Terena Wood agreed to dismiss the two county officials from the suit in August.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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