Mark J. Terrill / AP file
Singer Whitney Houston performs at the pre-Grammy gala & salute to industry icons with Clive Davis honoring David Geffen in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 13, 2011.
A Beverly Hills police sergeant disturbed the scene of Whitney Houston’s death in 2012, according to a claim filed last week with the city, by lifting the sheet covering her naked body and commenting on how good the dead pop superstar looked.
Despite “no legitimate law enforcement inquiry, investigative, or other proper and legal purpose,” alleges the claim, which was filed by another member of the force, Det. Sgt. Terry Nutall “knelt beside and leaned over the decedent, removed the sheet and/or other covering from the body ... to an area below the pubic region.”
While nearly touching the singer’s body, Nutall allegedly then made “inappropriate comments ... that the decedent ‘looked attractive for a woman of her age and current state,’” and said, “’Damn, she’s still looking good, huh?’”
Houston was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on Feb. 11, 2012. The Los Angeles County Coroner determined that she died of accidental drowning, with cocaine use and heart disease as contributing factors. She was 48.
The claim was filed by former Beverly Hills SWAT supervisor Brian Weir, who says that as the senior patrol sergeant on duty he responded to the death scene and "attempted to secure and preserve the scene of the death." He says that Nutall arrived on scene after a sheet was placed over Houston's body to "prevent contamination."
Weir alleges he was removed from his position as head of the department’s SWAT team for reporting the alleged misconduct. The claim, filed on his behalf by attorney Christopher Brizzolara with the city of Beverly Hills and other California state agencies, is a precursor to a civil lawsuit that is expected to be filed within 30 days.
Beverly Hills Police Lt. Lincoln Hoshino disputed the claim's characterizations, and said he was unaware of any lawsuit by Weir. He said Nutall was near the Houston death scene and was the detective division sergeant on duty, which meant it was appropriate for him to respond. (Nutall has since been promoted to lieutenant.)
“He would be expected to respond to that type of incident and his supervisor was fully aware that he went to the scene,” said Hoshino. As for Nutall’s alleged comments about Houston’s body, Hoshino said that the department was not aware of “any inappropriate behavior or any inappropriate comments. We stand behind the investigation 100 percent, including the conclusion from the coroner’s office.”
Attorney Dmitry Gorin, a former Los Angeles County Deputy D.A., said that if true, Weir's allegations raise questions about whether investigators properly secured the scene and whether they unnecessarily exposed the department and city to future civil litigation.
“If proven, officer Nutall's actions were highly inappropriate and demonstrate very poor judgment by a senior BHPD officer,” Gorin said. “A law enforcement officer more interested in what a decedent's body looks like than securing a possible crime scene may taint the original placement of relevant DNA and fiber evidence, causing investigators to miss data and draw incorrect conclusions.”
At the time of her death, Houston was in Los Angeles preparing to attend a pre-Grammy party thrown by her mentor, producer Clive Davis. The singer’s personal assistant left to pick up items at Neiman Marcus and returned to the hotel room at 3:36 p.m. She went into the bathroom and found Houston face down in the tub and unresponsive, according to the coroner’s report.
The personal assistant yelled to a bodyguard, and together they pulled the singer out. The assistant then told the front desk to call 911.
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First published September 17 2013, 2:01 AM