Harrah’s Joliet Hit with $6 Million Negligence Lawsuit Over Casino Killing

Posted on: February 4, 2021, 08:56h. 

Last updated on: February 4, 2021, 08:56h.

The fiancée of a man brutally stabbed to death by a stranger in a hallway at Harrah’s Joliet Hotel & Casino in Joliet, Illinois is suing operator Caesars Entertainment for negligence, reports.

Harrah's Joliet
Robert Watson was seen in surveillance video ‘stalking patrons’ before the alleged murder, according to the lawsuit. (Image: Joliet Police)

Last August, a jury decided that Robert Watson, 26, was fit to stand trial for the first-degree murder of 76-year-old Emanuel “Sam” Burgarino of Hales Corners, Wisconsin. Watson’s lawyers had argued their client suffered from schizophrenia and was mentally incompetent.

In the meantime, in a $5 million lawsuit filed in Will County Courthouse this week, Burgarino’s fiancée, Denise Dixon, argues that Harrah’s failed to protect guests from Watson. It alleges the transient with a history of violence was able to roam hotel corridors looking for victims unchallenged by security, despite showing up several times on security cameras.

Bloodstained Cash

Watson robbed Burgarino and stabbed him 26 times in a frenzied attack on the hotel’s fifth floor, before fleeing via a fire escape. The killing was caught on the hotel’s security cameras.

The suspect was arrested less than 24 hours later at the Joliet Public Library, just two blocks from the casino. Inside his backpack was Burgarino’s bloodstained cash.

“Watson was not a guest of the hotel, and he had not been issued an electronic key card or assigned a room,” Northbrook attorney Jeffrey Crane states in the lawsuit.

Watson had been stalking patrons in the casino before the assault in plain view of the hotel staff. Watson had appeared several times on the security cameras in the hotel section of the Harrah’s Joliet casino in the hours and over the weekend prior to the assault.

“Although Watson exhibited suspicious behavior, the defendants did not investigate why he was on the premises or prevent him from assaulting Sam,” the lawsuit alleges.

‘No Sympathy’

Moreover, according to the complaint, casino staff neglected to seek out Dixon, who was waiting in the casino downstairs, to inform her that her partner had been attacked. Eventually, she was driven to the hospital by a police officer, but by the time she arrived Burgarino was dead.

When she returned to the property “none of the defendants’ employees offered Denise sympathy for what had happened to Sam. To the contrary, the clerk asked her to pay her hotel bill. To this day, the defendants continue to send Denise and Sam personalized advertising asking each of them to come back for another stay at the hotel/casino,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses Caesars and the Joliet Harrah’s Casino of premises liability: negligence and reckless conduct.


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