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Family sues in order-of-protection death

April 29, 2009 4:13:39 PM PDT
A family is using a lawsuit to express its outrage that more wasn't done to help a woman killed in her own home. They say they called police, warning about her ex-boyfriend, who she had an order of protection against.But Jo'Anna Bird was found stabbed to death last month. And her ex is now charged.

The victim's family has filed a notice of claim, beginning the process to sue Nassau County and its police department. They say the system failed them by ignoring their pleas for help, right up to the minute she was murdered.

"Every day, I see her pictures and look at her kids," Sharon Dorsett said. "I want her here."

It's been less than two months since Dorsett's daughter, Jo'Anna, was brutally stabbed to death. They say her killer was her estranged boyfriend Leonardo Valdez Cruz, whom she had a son with and a court mandated stay away order of protection.

Jo'Anna's family says she constantly called police, telling them Valdez Cruz told her he wanted her dead. But they say he would walk from the justice system every time.

"They did a poor job protecting my sister and saving her life," sister Melissa Bird said. "Now, her kids don't have a mother."

A long history of domestic violence ended in March, when family says Valdez Cruz murdered her in her home, while family and friends stood outside trying to get in to help or to get police inside.

Cops responded quickly, that is not in question, but the victims family claims they are responsible for Jo'Anna's death because they waited three hours to go into the house, treating it as a hostage situation rather than a tactical entry.

"They made multiple requests she be rescued," the family's attorney said. "They threatened the family with arrests and waited until the deed had been done to her."

"There was no information conveyed she was bleeding to death behind that locked door," Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said. "It was treated as a domestic, and by protocol, to talk through the situation."

Still, Mulvey calls Valdez Cruz a violent man, confirming a prior arrest for kidnapping Jo'Anna just two months before her murder. He says Nassau County prosecutors were the ones who let him go, not police.

The district attorney's office responded to that with a statement saying, "Jo'Anna refused, from day one, to speak to us. We contacted her family numerous times...and we physically went to her house. She would not cooperate. Without a victim/witness, there can be no case."

But family members deny Jo'Anna's refusal for help, saying she did everything she could to get the protection she needed for her and her children.

Valdez Cruz is being held without bail. He is due back in court for trial in May. Jo'Anna's family says they want Nassau County to be held responsible, as well as Valdez Cruz.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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