The mother of an abused woman who was fatally stabbed by her husband in 2008 has sued the Baltimore Police Department, alleging a police commander who was friendly with the husband "allowed him to remain free to commit his crimes."
The suit was filed this week in Baltimore Circuit Court by Carlin Robinson and Eunice Graves, the cousin and mother, respectively, of Veronica Williams, who was stabbed outside the North Avenue District Courthouse by husband Cleaven Williams after she had appeared at a hearing seeking protection from him.
The suit names former Eastern District Deputy Maj. Dan Lioi as a defendant; The Sun in 2009 reported that Lioi had been suspended by the department after investigators learned that he had exchanged text messages with Cleaven Williams, then the president of the Greater Greenmount Community Association, trying to arrange a time for him to turn himself in. At one point, he visited the Eastern District station to do so, but officers could not locate the warrant.
According to testimony at Williams' trial, on Nov. 17, Williams told Lioi by phone that he was on his way to his lawyer's office and that he would "get back" to him, according to the police commander. About an hour after that, Lioi learned that Williams had been arrested in the stabbing of his wife of almost 10 years, as well as resulting in a miscarriage of the child she was carrying.
"The misconduct of the Baltimore City Police Department and its officers rises above mere complacency," the lawsuit says. "Officers actively warned Mr. Williams and refused to arrest him despite the warrant ... This was done with the full knowledge that a judge had already determined Williams to be a threat to the life and safety of the deceased."
The suit further claims that Veronica Williams had been in hiding prior to the court appearance, and had Cleaven Williams been arrested that day, he would have missed his only opportunity to commit the murder. "The defendants placed Mrs. Williams in a police-created zone of danger by intentionally conspiring with Mr. Williams to permit him to remain free despite ample opportunity to arrest him," the suit says.
Lioi, a popular commander both in the Police Department and among East Baltimore residents, was suspended for a few months but cleared of wrongdoing. He was recently moved from the Eastern District and oversees the department's District Detective Units, and could not be immediately reached for comment.
Though the lawsuit does not appear in the state's case search database, a copy was obtained and posted online by the Courthouse News Service website. An employee at the law firm of Cary Hansel, a Greenbelt attorney for the plaintiffs, verified its authenticity.
Here's a longer piece about Veronica and Cleaven Williams, written by The Sun's Melissa Harris in December 2008.