EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 9, 2013

Police: Officers acted properly in fatal stabbing case

No arrest, monitoring, because woman not violent during first police response to home

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — The deputy police chief said his review of a boyfriend-girlfriend dispute that ended with the man’s fatal stabbing shows officers handled the case properly.

Deputy Donald Thompson also said there was no indication the woman was violent and should have been arrested or monitored by police while at Merrimack Valley Hospital, where officers had her taken from her apartment because she was heavily intoxicated. Several hours later, she left the hospital and returned to the apartment, where she stabbed her boyfriend to death, police said.

Thompson said officers had no reason to make arrests when they responded just after 5 p.m. Monday to the report of a disturbance at the home of Susan Lovejoy — Apt. 306 in the 1 Water St. building at the edge of downtown. The officers saw no signs of physical violence that would have indicated the need to make an arrest, Thompson said.

He said the officers’ prime concern was getting medical treatment for Lovejoy, who had ingested a large amount of alcohol and several pills before an argument with her boyfriend, Kevin Paul, according to a police report. The officers arranged to have Lovejoy taken by ambulance to the hospital for observation.

Thompson said arresting Lovejoy or placing her in protective custody in a police station cell would have made no sense because she needed medical attention and was not violent.

“They (the officers) found that the woman was very incoherent and was making very little sense, which they believe was due to her extreme intoxication,” Thompson said. “They had information that she was drinking heavily and was taking a number of pills, and that she expressed an interest in going to the hospital and being treated.

“It made no sense to put her in a cell,” Thompson said. “The officers made a determination that sending her to the hospital was the proper course of action.”

He also said there were no signs of combativeness that would have caused the officers to accompany Lovejoy on the ambulance ride to the hospital or monitor her during her stay there.

According to a police report, a nurse at the hospital told police that Lovejoy was a patient there from 6 to 9:33 p.m. on Monday. Lovejoy got money from an ATM in the hospital and called a cab before leaving the hospital, the nurse told police. Officers said Lovejoy later told them she walked the nearly two miles from the hospital to her apartment.

Hospital spokesman Christopher Murphy said that because of federal privacy laws, he could not respond to specific questions about Lovejoy or her treatment that night at the hospital.

“I can tell you that we cannot hold a person against their will and we had no instruction from law enforcement or the court that we had legal authority to detain her,” Murphy said.

Thompson said that if police had concerns about a person’s release, they would check in with the hospital. He said the hospital did not notify police about Lovejoy’s release.

“They didn’t have to call us to let us know, but sometimes we will request that information and sometimes they will just offer it to us,” Thompson said.

Asked if he believed there is a need to review police policies regarding situations like this, Thompson said police are always reviewing their policies.

“Based upon what I have before me (police reports), I can’t say there will (be a review) but I can’t rule it out either,” he said.

Thompson would not comment about whether police had been called to Lovejoy’s apartment prior to Monday night.

The fatal stabbing case began about 5 p.m. Monday, when police received a report of a disturbance at 1 Water St. There, they found Lovejoy unsteady on her feet — apparently heavily intoxicated, according to a police report. After talking to Lovejoy, 64, and her live-in boyfriend Paul, 51, officers determined they had been arguing, and that she had too much to drink and had also taken pills, the report said. Police decided to have her transported by ambulance to Merrimack Valley Hospital for observation.

Several hours later, Lovejoy was released from the hospital and made her way back to her Water Street apartment, the report said. At 11:35 p.m., officers returned to the apartment for a reported suicide, according to the police report. Officers found Paul dead from a stab would. They have charged Lovejoy with murder.

Police said they found Paul lying on his back on the living room floor. They said he was covered in blood, was not breathing and his pants were down around his knees. Lovejoy was kneeling next to him, police said.

Police said the walls of the living room were smeared in blood, and a small bit of white powder and two snorting straws were on a table, along with a black handle steak knife that did not have any blood on it. Lovejoy told officers that Paul had stabbed himself, according to a police report.

Paul was taken to Merrimack Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police said a doctor at the hospital described his injury as a “through and through” wound that went through his left rear tricep and exited the arm, nicking his upper torso. Police said that based on the location and depth of Paul’s penetrating wound, it was not consistent with a self-inflicted injury.

Lovejoy was arraigned Tuesday in Haverhill District Court on the charge of murder and held without bail pending a hearing June 5.