- Associated Press - Thursday, January 12, 2017

DETROIT (AP) - Caught with marijuana at a suburban Detroit motel, Shelly Hilliard quickly agreed to become an informant, telling police that she could lead them to her supplier. She was right: A few hours later, the dealer was arrested.

And a few days later, Hilliard, 19, was dead - her burned and dismembered body found on a Detroit street. The dealer had killed her.

A federal appeals court this week said Hilliard’s mother can sue a police officer, Chad Wolowiec, who is accused of putting her in grave danger in October 2011.

During the arrest, Wolowiec gave enough details to the drug dealer’s companion to reveal that Hilliard had played a role in the bust. Why? “I don’t know,” he later said during a deposition in the lawsuit.

In a 3-0 opinion Monday, the appeals court called it a “blatant exposure” and said Wolowiec is not entitled to immunity from the lawsuit.

“The evidence shows no necessity for Officer Wolowiec to disclose Hilliard’s identity. … A reasonable jury could find that Officer Wolowiec acted with deliberate indifference,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, agreeing with a decision by U.S. District Judge Judith Levy. The case now will go to trial or be settled.

“We’re very heartened,” said William Goodman, an attorney for the victim’s mother, Lyniece Nelson. “There was no excuse for exposing her identity to people who were very likely to cause her harm - and did.”

At the time, Wolowiec was a Madison Heights officer who was assigned to a regional drug unit in suburban Detroit. He’s now an officer in Warren.

Wolowiec’s attorney, Rick Patterson, declined to comment on the court decision Thursday.

In a court filing, Patterson said Wolowiec shouldn’t be held responsible because he had warned Hilliard that she could be at risk. Goodman, however, said there’s no evidence beyond what the officer has claimed.

Wolowiec “could not dictate to her what she did and where she went,” Patterson said. “All he could do was advise her she was potentially at risk and that she should stay away” from Qasim “Red” Raqib.

Raqib, 35, was convicted of second-degree murder in Hilliard’s death and sentenced to 25 to 40 years in prison.

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Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteap


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