Halperin & Halperin, P.C. represented the estate of Shirley Fontanez, who was killed by her police officer boyfriend with his service handgun. From the NY Daily News September 14, 2016:
The city has paid $1.15 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the murder of a teen mother fatally shot in bed by her 40-year-old NYPD cop boyfriend who then killed himself, the Daily News has learned.
Shirley Fontanez was shot five times by Police Officer Frederick Maselli with his Glock service handgun in July 2007.
Fontanez, who was 18 when she died, allegedly began dating the cop when she was 16, according to court papers.
The payout will go to Fontanez’s daughter, who is now 12, when she reaches adulthood. Maselli was not the biological father of the girl.
“The settlement of this tragic case was fair and in the best interest of the city,” said Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci.
Fred Lichtmacher, the lawyer for the girl’s legal guardian, declined to comment Tuesday on the settlement.
The teen’s mother, relatives and friends had claimed Maselli’s fellow cops at the 34th Precinct in Washington Heights knew he was dating an underage girl, and had ignored complaints from them that he was beating her, according to court papers.
Fontanez’s mother, Maria Espinoza, stated in a sworn affidavit that she became aware of the illicit relationship between Fontanez and Maselli in 2005 and informed the cop’s supervisor.
“(The sergeant) responded by ignoring the allegations and instead making passes at me sexually,” the affidavit said.
Kenia Grano de Oro, the little girl’s aunt, testified that she made at least five complaints at the precinct about Maselli beating Fontanez. She claims that on one occasion the cops threatened to arrest her for disorderly conduct if she did not leave the stationhouse.
The suit, filed in Bronx Supreme Court, contended that had the NYPD investigated the allegations, the murder-suicide could have been averted.
“I lived next to the (34th Precinct) and I witnessed the fact that everyone in the precinct up to and including the commanding officer being aware of the improper relationship with Shirley and Fred but failed to take action,” Fontanez’s friend Monica Pineda said in an affidavit.
The suit was initially thrown out by a lower court, but a state appeals court reinstated it last year. The groundbreaking ruling said the city could be found responsible even though Maselli was off-duty when he committed the evil deed, if a jury found that he was negligently supervised and whether the violence had been foreseeable.
Maselli’s fellow cops all denied they were aware of any complaints about him abusing Fontanez.
It was later suspected that Maselli was experiencing financial problems and may have put Fontanez up to cashing thousands of dollars in stolen checks in New Jersey.
Fontanez lost custody of her daughter before her death. The child is now being raised by relatives.