Tiana Rice family sues for answers

March 26, 2009 2:22:11 PM PDT
For the family of 16-year-old Tiana Rice, it's now been nearly 3 months of anguish. Still no answers and so they are filing a lawsuit against the NYPD and the medical examiner's office in search of the closure they desperately need.

"I was overwhelmed. It was just a feeling i don't think any parent would want go through," Tiana's father, Willie Rice, said.

Tiana Rice was last seen by her family in the Bronx on December 30, 2008 at 6:00 p.m.

Just after 9:00 p.m. On that day, her mother says she called 9-1-1 after reaching Tiana on her cell phone, hearing her screaming and then losing the connection.

"I was real scared, because I never heard her like that. It was scary as far as I'm concerned," Shirley Bird said.

Meanwhile, at 10:41 that same night, someone else called 9-1-1 from Brooklyn about a female with an asthma attack.

Shortly after authorities arrived, the female is unresponsive. She was pronounced dead and identified as a 28-year-old woman because of a driver's license found near her body.

Right around the same time, police responded to Tiana's mother's call from the Bronx, but authorities did not put 2 and 2 together.

"When they came, they said, 'Oh, this happens all the time. She's 16. Sixteen-year-olds run away and she'll be home in a couple of days,'" Bird explained.

All the while, Tiana's parents were stressing to police that their teenage daughter had severe asthma.

On December 31, police said they realized the body was not the 28-year-old woman.

They say they unofficially notified the medical examiner's office. On January 12, they say they formally notified two people in that office, but according to the medical examiner, formal notification was not received until January 27.

On February 3, Tiana Rice's parents learned that the body in the morgue was their daughter.

If there's an explanation, at least one forensic scientist says he would certainly like to hear it.

"It just doesn't fit together. A pathologist should've been able to determine a difference between a 16-year-old and a 28 year old," Dr. Lawrence Koblinsky of John Jay College of Criminal Justice said.

Not to mention, the news Tiana's family received more than a month later.

"First it was natural causes. You go to sleep. You wake up the next day, it's rape and murder," Willie Rice said.

They also say police took no interest when Tiana's mother found her clothing in the garbage outside the crime scene just last week.

Their family's attorney suggested the whole case was botched from the start.

"There's a 16-year-old girl that's found dead, lying naked on the floor. They do no investigating? Nothing?" Michael Lamonsoff said.

The lawsuit is an attempt for this family to figure out what happened as police have yet to find the man who raped tiana and caused her death.