Two years after his release from the county jail, a former inmate has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, several of its investigators and a former county medical examiner for damages he claims he suffered after he was wrongly accused of murder.
Timothy Lester Liapes filed a civil suit last Wednesday against NCSO detectives Joe Close and David Boruchowitz, the sheriff’s department, Medical Examiner Dr. Rexene Worrell, the Nye County Coroner’s Office, Nye County and retired NCSO deputy Dawn Moore. Liapes is seeking general and punitive damages in excess of $1 million for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and deprivation of liberty without due process after he was held in custody at the Nye County Detention Center awaiting trial in a murder case from March 2009 to June 2011.
Liapes was originally arrested after his friend, 45-year-old Robert Humphrey, reportedly shot and killed himself in a bathroom located inside Liapes’ residence in the 5400 block of East Old Spanish trail on March 5, 2009.
Liapes called police, and when Worrell, the county’s medical examiner at the time, conducted an autopsy on Humphrey’s body, she concluded that based on the angle of the fatal shot to the man’s head, Humphrey could not have pulled the trigger.
When Close was informed of Worrell’s findings, he reportedly went back to Liapes’ home several days later, where he discovered Liapes had cleaned the entire bathroom where the suicide took place. Liapes reportedly tested positive for having gunshot residue on his hands when police tested him and made detectives suspicious after he made several bizarre statements such as “what if I was riding my bike and fell into a pile of gunpowder and I had gun- powder residue,” during their second visit to his residence.
Liapes was subsequently arrested for one count of murder and held in the Nye County Detention Center on $500,000 bail for the next 27 months.
As his case progressed through the criminal justice system and further investigation was conducted into the matter, it appeared it would be hard for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Liapes was actually guilty of murder.
His defense attorney at the time, Harry Kuehn, said he had even taken the forensics results from Worrell’s examination of Humphrey’s body and showed them to other forensic experts, who reportedly told him they disagreed with her findings.
Eventually the murder charge was dropped and a plea deal was offered to Liapes for charges of destroying/concealing evidence and interfering with a public officer, both gross misdemeanor offenses. He pleaded guilty pursuant to Alford — a plea used by defendants who refuse to admit guilt, but who wish to take a plea deal — and sentenced to 12 months in jail on each count with credit for time already served.
In the complaint filed as part of the lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and Worrell, it states Liapes was falsely imprisoned for murder and his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.
It further alleges that his arrest may have been due in part to an alleged policy it claims was directed by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department toward members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club, its members and their families.
“The actions of the defendants herein have been willful, wanton, oppressive, malicious, and undertaken with willful and wanton disregard for the plaintiff’s rights, or with the express intent to harass, vex, and annoy plaintiff, and to deprive him of his rights to life, liberty, and property,” the complaint reads.
It further alleges that the actions of the named defendants have caused Liapes “extreme emotional distress, daily anxiety, suffering, pain, anguish, and the loss of enjoyment of his life.”
Liapes and his attorney, Brent D. Percival of Las Vegas, said because of those named damages they are seeking general and punitive damages in excess of $1 million in addition to attorney’s fees, court fees and possibly special damages, an amount for which has not yet been determined.
Attempts to contact District Attorney Brian Kunzi and Liapes’ attorney were not successful as of press time Tuesday.