Florida Man Shot by Mother-in-Law Sues, Believes His Wife Played a Role

Sal Miglino claims his wife knew of her mother's plans to shoot him.

ByMatt Gutman and Katie Kindelan
February 17, 2012, 11:16 AM

Feb. 17, 2012 -- The South Florida man shot point-blank by his mother-in-law during a prescheduled pickup of his son believes his wife knew about the shooting, and he has filed a lawsuit against her family.

Sixty-six-year-old Cheryl Hepner could face 30 years in prison for allegedly shooting her son-in-law, Sal Miglino, last December outside her home in a Florida retirement community.

During a prearranged pickup of her 3-year-old grandson on Dec. 7, Hepner waited outside her home with the child's sleepover gear. When Miglino, the father's child, arrived, she pulled a .22 caliber Beretta handgun from behind the bundle of gear and fired three shots, hitting Miglino twice, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

Not present at the shooting was Miglino's estranged wife, Vicki Miglino, also the child's mother, and Hepner's daughter.

"Yes," Miglino said today on "Good Morning America" when asked if he believes Vicki knew of the shooting ahead of time and planned to be away.

"The normal routine is pick up my son at 5 o'clock. She never missed a heartbeat of that," Miglino said in his first interview in the three months since the shooting. "She was always there. This day, she wasn't there. So that's the answer."

Hundreds of pages of court records obtained by ABC News outline the two years of bitter divorce proceedings between Miglino and Vicki, and include details of a previous restraining order filed against Miglino by Hepner and his estranged wife, as well as a restraining order that Hepner sought against Miglino the day after the shooting.

"We have the divorce case, which is ongoing and which has to be brought to a conclusion," Miglino's attorney, Peter Mineo, said today on "GMA."

"We've also brought suit against the mother of the child, the shooter [the grandmother] and the uncle, who initially lied about giving the gun to Cheryl Hepner and then recanted," he said. "So we've sued all them and her [Vicki] late father as well."

Hepner was arrested for attempted murder and denied bail following the shooting.

"We have alleged that the mother knew about this and was involved," Mineo said of his client's estranged wife. "We're pretty confident that the circumstantial evidence will prove that."

In an email to ABC News Hepner's attorney, Michael L. Tenzer, said, "I cannot respond to specific questions regarding this matter as it is ongoing and I will not engage in trying the case in the media. As far as my client is concerned, the true facts and circumstances surrounding this case will work its way through the discovery process to its ultimate resolution. Clearly, Ms. Hepner is distraught over this incident and the circumstances leading up to it as well as being sorry that Mr. Miglino was shot."

Expecting "something stupid to happen," as he later told a 911 dispatcher, Miglino switched his iPhone video camera to record when Hepner approached him -- and captured the entire incident on tape.

"There was a past history of false accusations," Miglino said on "GMA." "I wasn't going to do deal with it anymore so I said I've got to protect myself."

Miglino said the pickup routine began as usual but admitted Hepner's demeanor raised his suspicions.

"She was talking too nice to me. That's not normal," he said. "I did my regular routine. I opened up the back door and put the DVD on for my son, expecting Vicki to come out, but the mother comes out."

"She said, 'I want to talk to you. She kept asking me to go into the house. The answer was no. The next thing you know I'm getting shot," he said.

After he was shot, Miglino pounced and wrestled the gun away from Hepner, then drove away while calling for help, according to police.

Hepner, too, had called police, but with a different version of events.

When she was asked by the 911 dispatcher about whether she or Miglino pulled the gun, Hepner replied: "No, he pulled it on me and he's got it. He drove away," according to an audio recording of the call. Nearly hysterical, Hepner also mentioned to the dispatcher that he and her daughter were in "the middle of a horrible divorce."

"That's mind boggling," Miglino said today on "GMA." "I can't believe she's lying. ... Just listening to that [the 911 call], I'm like, 'Why would you want to do that to my son? Why would you want to hurt him for the rest of his life?'"

Investigators later recovered the gun, and found it had jammed. They said they believe that Hepner would have continued firing had the handgun not failed.

The audio of the incident captured on Miglino's iPhone video camera has been key to the investigation of the shooting. Fifty-eight seconds into the recording, three gunshots are heard. Then Miglino can be heard saying: "I can't believe you did that. I can't believe you did that … I can't believe you f**king shot me."

The bullets hit Miglino in the shoulder and rib cage. He was treated for his wounds at a local hospital and released but still has the two bullets in his body, he confirmed.

"Emotionally, it still bothers me because I can't believe it still happened," he said. "No one is a winner here. My son lost again. He lost his grandmother, and he lost his grandfather."

ABC News' Kevin Dolak and Suzanne Yeo contributed to this report.

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