LYNCHBURG, Va. -

When Jennifer Johnson was shot and killed earlier this year, family members say her two young boys took the news harder than anyone.

"It's just very difficult for them as they try to navigate (life), even through the short term," said John Wolhfert, Johnson's first cousin who now has legal custody of her children.

As administrator of her estate, Wolhfert is filing a $3.3-million lawsuit against Cordell Carter.

Carter is accused of killing Johnson.  He's also the father of one of her kids.

Wolhfert says money isn't the only object of his lawsuit.

"It's about closing the gap that these children are going to have, without having their mother in their lives for the rest of their life," said Wolhfert.  "The lawsuit is really to try and take away some of the burden for the children."

Carter won't go on trial for Johnson's murder until later this year.

Wolhfert said he is suing now, because Carter's assets are starting to disappear.  On January 16, two days after the murder, Carter transferred three properties he owns to his daughter, Courtney.

Joey Sanzone represents both Carters and says it's unusual to see a wrongful death suit filed so early in a murder case.

"Generally, a wrongful death action doesn't take place in matters such as this, until the criminal cases have been well developed, if they ever are," Sanzone said, adding that his clients will actively fight the suit.

Wolhfert, who's raising Johnson's children along with their aunt, plans to fight with their best interests in mind.

"Whatever we can do to make their lives easier," said Wolhfert.  "That's what this is about."

The value of Carter's properties is far less than the 3-million dollars Wolhfert is seeking.

A court date for the lawsuit hasn't been set.  The case will likely be handled after Carter's murder trial, which is currently scheduled for September.