The widow of a retired police criminalist who killed himself while under investigation in the slaying of a 14-year-old girl in 1984 was awarded $6 million by a federal jury in San Diego, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Friday.
Rebecca Brown filed a civil-rights and wrongful-death lawsuit against a San Diego police detective after her husband, Kevin Brown, 62, took his own life in October 2014.
Jurors on Friday found the detective, Michael Lambert, responsible for “judicial deception” and “deliberate indifference” during a cold-case investigation into the 1984 slaying of Claire Hough.
Kevin Brown was accused of working with another suspect, Ronald Tatro, to strangle, beat and kill Hough, whose mutilated body was found on Torrey Pines State Beach.
Kevin Brown was linked to the crime through DNA tests that found a small amount of his sperm cells on a vaginal swab collected during Hough's autopsy.
The lawsuit alleged Lambert ignored a likely explanation for the test results, which was accidental contamination.
According to a court document, it was common for criminalists to use their own blood and semen to test methods in the SDPD lab when Brown worked in the 1980s. Lab technicians would also dry swabs in the open air, without guards to protect from contamination, the initial complaint said.
Jurors awarded $3 million for damages arising from an overly broad search of the couple's home in January 2014 and another $3 million to Rebecca Brown for loss of companionship.
The two parties and their lawyers declined to comment Friday.
The jury returns Tuesday to consider punitive damages.