NEWARK, N.J. (CN) – The children of a 48-year-old special education teacher who was hacked to death by her machete-wielding ex-boyfriend, a former New York City policeman, sued the woman’s hometown, claiming it failed to protect her.
Former New York City police Officer Arthur Lomando repeatedly stabbed his former girlfriend of three years Suzanne Bardzell in the driveway of her Midland Park home on Oct. 22, 2015, while she talked with a friend on her cellphone.
Just before the murder, Bardzell’s friend overheard Lomando saying, “I’m sorry to have to do this to you.” Police responding to a 911 found Bardzell dead in her car with the motor running.
In the March 21 federal lawsuit, Bardzell’s estate says officials and police in her hometown of Midland Park could have prevented the murder. The estate consists of her children Alexander and Adam Bardzell.
Lomando is awaiting trial on charges that include murder, stalking, witness tampering and violating a domestic violence restraining order. He has not been offered a plea deal, according to New Jersey press reports.
“Bardzell would be alive today if [the Borough of Midland Park] had taken the proper affirmative steps and acted in accordance with law,” according to the 38-page lawsuit.
The lawsuit suggests the borough officials may have grown numb to complaints of domestic violence involving Bardzell and her former husband, as well as with those with Lomando.
Midland Park “became deliberately indifferent towards any [domestic violence] complaints that Bardzell might make in the future,” the lawsuit claims, calling the indifference of borough officials “shocking and perverse.”
After Lomando allegedly broke into Bardzell’s house and threatened to kill her with a pair of scissors, borough officials told Bardzell “there was no case, as [if] it was her word against Lomando’s,” according to the complaint.
Police did not canvass the neighborhood to search for a suspect, nor did they check the home for fingerprints or other evidence or file a second-degree burglary charge against Lomando, the lawsuit states. And police told Bardzell they would take no action other than helping her file a temporary restraining order against Lomando.
Bardzell had told police about numerous domestic violence incidents involving Lomando during their rocky three-year relationship, according to the complaint. In the weeks before her killing, Bardzell did obtain a restraining order against Lomando.
Despite the restraining order, Lomando contacted one of Bardzell’s friends by phone and Facebook and called The Community School in Teaneck, where Bardzell was a teacher, and sent “compromising” photos of Bardzell to the school to try to get her fired, according to the lawsuit and press reports.
Isabel Shoukas, the director of the school, was quoted as saying that Lomando had emailed her numerous times with compromising photos in an attempt to get Bardzell fired. “He kept threatening, ‘Well, the parents aren’t going to like this and the kids aren’t going to like these pictures,’” Shoukas told police.
Teaneck police arrested Lomando on Oct. 10, 2015, a day after Shoukas called police. He was released on $10,000 bail.
In the next few days Midland Park police searched for Lomando after reports that his car was in Bardzell’s driveway. However, the borough’s police department was “not affirmatively acting to watch the Bardzell home and was deliberately indifferent as to her safety,” the complaint states.
Midland Park Police Chief Michael Powderly declined comment. An administrator for the Borough of Midland Park was not immediately available.
About an hour after the murder, Lomando jumped or was pushed onto subway tracks in New York City. He lost both legs above the knees. He sued the city for $50 million in 2015, claiming he fell or was knocked off the platform by a fellow commuter. His attorney told reporters at the time that Lomando was not suicidal and was merely returning to his home on Long Island.
Lomando, who served on the NYPD for a decade, was fired in 2004 after allegedly misusing vacation and overtime. He reportedly had panic attacks on the job and a history of depression.