Friday, February 22, 2008

Family can sue 911 staff over love triangle killing

The family of a man slain by a fired 911 dispatcher can sue the killer's co-workers, who allegedly looked up the victim's records for their colleague shortly before the triple murder, a federal appeals court ruled earlierthis month. The family of Mark Phillips, of Carnegie, Pennsylvania can argue that Allegheny County employees endangered him through their actions.

Michael A. Michalski is serving life in prison for killing ex-girlfriend Gretchen Ferderbar, her sister, Linda Ferderbar, and Phillips, her new boyfriend, in 2003. Michalski had just been fired from the county 911 center after looking up Phillips' vehicle and license-plate records himself. Soon afterward, a distraught Michalski called co-workers to say he "had nothing left to live for" and that Phillips and Gretchen Ferderbar were going to "pay for putting him in his present situation," the court opinion said.

Despite that call, dispatchers Danielle Tush and Brian Craig, who allegedly helped look up Phillips' records for Michalski, never alerted the pair or their local police departments, the suit charges. The complaint alleges that after Tush and Craig provided Michalski with confidential information, Michalski used that information to hunt down and kill Mark Phillips.

Michalski found the victims at a home. Prosecutors believe he planned to take Gretchen Ferderbar by force, but started shooting when the others intervened.

Lawyer Philip Ignelzi filed the wrongful death suit on behalf of Phillips' mother, Jeanne, his executor. The appeals court also said she could revise her claims against 911 center supervisor Daniel Nussbaum, who had fired Michalski and found him "volatile" afterward. "Despite recognizing that Michalski had used the 911 call center's computer system to track Mark Phillips, Nussbaum made no effort to detain Michalski, to deter him from reaching Mark Phillips or to warn Mark Phillips of Michalski's potentially violent behavior," Nygaard said.

Nussbaum instead contacted police in McCandless Township, where Michalski lived, while also contacting or trying to contact Gretchen Ferderbar, the opinion stated.(info from

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