The details alone of Nicole Devine's death are ugly. On the morning of November 23, 2014, the tiny 24-year-old Willoughby woman was found dead on a couch in her family room. Her body— 4-foot-9-inches, 85-pounds— had been pummeled, including 10 deadly blows to the head. Police quickly arrested her boyfriend, Domenic Julian, and determined the murder was the last act in a drug-fueled domestic argument.
But new allegations from Devine's family cast the murder in a further ugly light. They claim Willoughby police officers knew Devine's boyfriend was in an abusive rage that night, yet instead of intervening, police left her with her abuser — sealing her fate.
The charges are outlined in a federal lawsuit recently filed against the city and six Willoughby police officers.
According to the complaint, around 12:30 a.m. on November 23, police received 911 calls reporting a man was physically assaulting a woman on Adkins Road.
When police units arrived at the scene, they discovered Devine and Julian. One of the officers noted in his report that "it was obvious" Julian had assaulted Devine: there was blood "on her face and in the area of her mouth and nose," according to the complaint. Devine told police she had been struck by Julian and wanted to go home. Julian denied the violence. Police found a knife and marijuana on his person.
Devine, however, would not tell police more about the assault. The officers did, according to the complaint, interview a neighbor who said they had seen the attack. Police put both Julian and Devine in the back of a patrol car and drove them home. Nicole got out of the car and went inside the house. Julian was given a citation for marijuana possession. Then police let him go.
Julian killed Devine within the next 30 minutes, according to Robert F. DiCello, the attorney representing Devine's family. "The heart of this case is that officers cannot take people to a snake pit, and then say, 'Bye! Have a nice day!,'" DiCello told Scene
. "Especially when they know that there is a real danger."
The Devine family's lawsuit argues Willoughby police had control of the situation when they arrived at the scene, yet then knowingly let the violent Julian continue his attack on Devine. The move is a violation of the state-created-danger-doctrine, as well as reckless, wanton or willful conduct and a wrongful death, among other counts outlined in the suit. DiCello also told Scene
that at one point an ambulance was called as the officers were responding to the initial call—-a clear indication the police felt a serious injury had occurred. Yet, the police let the couple go home together.
DiCello said to his knowledge, none of the officers involved were punished or reprimanded for the situation. "Officers can't just drop people off when the officer has knowledge that someone is in danger and they are likely to be hurt by the choices the officer makes, as in this case," the attorney added.
Julian pled guilty to murder in July 2015. He's currently serving a sentence of life in prison with the eligibility of parole in 15 years, according to the News Herald.
Willoughby's law director did not reply to a call and email for comment on the Devine lawsuit.