David Rojas, Elizabeth Baggett
A police officer accused of molesting a woman's corpse has been sued by her family for 'invading their privacy, inflicting emotional distress, and mishandling human remains.'
A lawsuit filed on Tuesday August 11, in LA Superior Court by the deceased's family identifies the officer, David Rojas, and accuses other unnamed LAPD employees of viewing and sharing bodycam footage of the alleged incident.
The lawsuit alleges that when Rojas was dispatched to 34-year-old Elizabeth Baggett's home in October 2019, he discovered that she had died of a drug overdose, and then, “sexually molested the Decedent, including fondling the Decedent’s breasts and feeling her nipples”.
"The defendants’ bodycam recorded video of the Decedent’s naked form, including video of Defendants David Rojas engaging in sexual contact with Decedent," court documents obtained by The Sun said.
"The defendants transmitted the video to others who subsequently viewed the video."
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Gloria Allred on behalf of the estate of the deceased woman and her family including Elizabeth's mother Janet Baggett; son Preston Sertich; and the child's father, Michael Sertich.
They are alleging 'invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, mishandling of human remains, violation a Civil Code which prohibits the distribution of such a video, intrusion into private affairs and violation of statutory duties.'
"We are seeking compensatory and punitive damages according to proof at trial," Ms. Allred said.
In a tearful statement on Tuesday, Elizabeth's mother said: "shock and disgust" did not "even come close to describing the horror" of hearing that her daughter's body had been interfered with.
"I learned in the despair of losing Elizabeth that she was abused by the police officer sworn to protect her and all of us," she said.
"I am infuriated that this man had so little respect for another human being, our Elizabeth, for not having the thought that she is someone’s daughter, granddaughter, and mother."
Janet said she wants "justice for her daughter because of this horrible disgusting act" that has left her and her family suffering from many "sleepless nights".
"I live in fear that the video will surface and another devastation will be added to what is already unbearable," she said.
"I personally wake in sweats from the nightmares that haunt me about the events of Elizabeth’s death.
"Days are not much better. They are often filled with tears and constant shock."
Elizabeth's son Preston, 6, also released a statement under the guidance of his father, saying: "That was my mother, someone's daughter, someone's sister," it read.
"David Rojas’ behavior was vile, David Rojas does not deserve to be a police officer.
"What has this officer gotten away with to believe this was even possible?"
According to The Sun, Rojas, 27, was charged earlier this year with one felony count of having sexual contact with human remains without authority after the alleged incident on October 20. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a date to be set for a preliminary hearing in the Los Angeles County Criminal Court.
The alleged incident was recorded on Rojas' body camera when he and his partner responded to a call about a suspected drug overdose, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.
Upon arriving at the address, the two officers discovered Elizabeth's lifeless body. During their investigations, a second officer reportedly left to get paperwork from their patrol car leaving Rojas alone in a room with the victim.
While alone with the victim, Rojas allegedly turned off his body camera and groped the corpse, LAPD officials said earlier this year.
The authorities said a two-minute buffer on the camera captured the alleged incident even though Rojas had turned it off.
The Los Angeles police officials have since placed Rojas, a four-year veteran of the department, on leave after discovering the footage. He is free on $20,000 bail.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at the time of Roja's arrest: "This incident is extremely disturbing and does not represent the values of the Los Angeles Police Department."
Rojas' union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, also added that: "His alleged behavior is abhorrent and an affront to every law enforcement professional working the LAPD."
Rojas faces up to three years in state prison, if convicted, prosecutors said.
Gloria Allred, the Baggett family's attorney said in a statement: "And learning that she and her remains have been so disrespected and violated has compounded the loss and inflicted horrific pain and suffering on her loved ones," she said in a press conference today.
"Learning, too, that the video of her alleged sexual molestation has been viewed by others sickens them and is deeply disturbing.
"So many women are sexually abused during their lifetime, and now we learn that some are even sexually victimized after their deaths.
"To add insult to injury, the knowledge that a police officer, during the course of his investigation of the death of a young woman, would take advantage of his position of power and trust to allegedly sexually abuse the body of a deceased person is very upsetting.
"It is not only against the law, but it is also against all sense of human decency."