BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday ordered a Maine federal court to reconsider whether state police violated a woman’s rights when they notified her ex-boyfriend by voicemail that he had been accused of sexually assaulting, sparking a violent rampage.
The case revolves around a July 2015 incident when a woman called police to report that a former boyfriend, Anthony Lord, had abducted her and sexually assaulted her. She asked police not to notify him of her claim, saying that he had threatened retribution.
State police left Lord a voicemail giving details of the woman’s accusations and asking him to come in for questioning. Lord responded by breaking into the woman’s parents’ home, fatally shooting her current boyfriend, shooting and wounding her mother and abducting her. He killed a second person while trying to escape.
The woman had asked police to station an officer or even an empty patrol car at her home to prevent Lord from attacking her, but police rejected the request, saying they lacked the resources and were not obligated to defend her in her own home.
Lord, who has denied wrongdoing, is awaiting trial.
The name of the woman has been omitted from the story as she is a victim of sexual assault.
The woman sued in December 2015, contending that the state had actively placed her in danger by placing the call, a violation of her due process rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. District Court in September 2016 dismissed the suit, saying that she had not demonstrated that state police had created a dangerous situation by failing to protect her.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned that dismissal, telling the lower court to take up the case again and seek additional details, including whether the state police had detailed rules on how closely to investigate a claimed threat before dismissing a request for protection.
The court said the officer left the message for Lord despite the woman’s explicit request that the State Police refrain from doing so out of her fear that this action would incite further violence from Lord. It said the timing of events suggested that she was correct in her fears.
Maine officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Andrew Hay