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Parents of slain Pigeon Forge worker say employer ignored warnings about stalker

The parents of Savannah Burford filed suit this week in Sevier County Circuit Court against Sunliner Diner, an Alabama hospitality firm and the suspect.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — The parents of a 19-year-old Pigeon Forge restaurant employee slain in January allege her bosses ignored the woman's concerns about the co-worker who stalked and killed her.

Julia Cutter, of Tennessee, and Ronnie Cutter, of Michigan, are suing the Sunliner Diner's owner, a coastal Alabama firm called Hangout Hospitality Group LLC and Gabriel E. Turcious, who is charged in the killing.

Court records state businessman Shaul Zislin, widely known as the founder of the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala., is a principal in the businesses. He couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Sevierville attorneys Bryan Delius and Bryce McKenzie represent the parents.

Burford was afraid of Turcious, authorities and the parents allege. They both worked at the Sunliner on the Parkway.

She'd repeatedly expressed her concern and fear of Turcious to employees and managers. They'd seen for themselves his "aggressive stalking behavior," the lawsuit states.

By Jan. 8, she was so worried she'd asked her mother to come pick her up after work, the lawsuit states. On that day, she worked the milkshake counter.

Turcious wasn't supposed to work that day but he showed up when he learned she was there, according to the lawsuit.

He tried to work the same schedule as Burford, Julia Cutter told WBIR at the time.

"She even has it written down, 'Help me I'm being stalked,'" Cutter said then. "He was watching her schedule."

After her shift, Burford walked out to meet her mom, who was waiting near the diner's back door.

Police say Turcious attacked Burford, stabbing her multiple times in the parking lot. Julia Cutter rushed to help her daughter.

Burford was taken to LeConte Medical Center and then the University of Tennessee Medical Center but did not survive.

According to a warrant, Turcious admitted what he'd done.

The parents seek $5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages from the defendants. The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges the restaurant and its owner failed to act knowing that Turcious presented a threat.

This month's three-day Hangout Music Festival has been canceled and plans for it to resume next May.

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