The family of a woman who died in October is suing a Los Angeles police officer accused of fondling her body and sharing camera footage with others.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Officer David Rojas sexually molested Elizabeth Baggett. The lawsuit also alleges invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, mishandling of human remains and other offenses.
Gloria Allred, the attorney representing the Baggett family, called Rojas’ alleged behavior “mean, vile, base and contemptible.”
“The unexpected loss of Elizabeth has been devastating for this family, and learning that she and her remains have been so disrespected and violated has compounded the loss and inflicted horrific pain and suffering on her loved ones,” Allred said in a statement. “So many women are sexually abused during their lifetime, and now we learn that some are even sexually victimized after their deaths.”
Baggett was 34 at the time of her death and had one son, according to an online obituary.
Rojas remains employed by the Los Angeles Police Department but is not on active duty, a spokesman said. His lawyer, Robert Ernenwein, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Baggett’s family filed the lawsuit against the city, Rojas and several unnamed parties. They are seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial.
The lawsuit does not name the Los Angeles Police Department as a defendant.
“Shock and disgust does not even come close to describing the horror of hearing this news,” the woman’s mother, Janet Baggett, said in a statement Tuesday. “We, her family, have sleepless nights, if we are able to sleep. I personally wake in sweats from the nightmares that haunt me about the events of Elizabeth’s death. Days are not much better.”
Rojas allegedly touched Baggett while he was alone with her corpse on Oct. 20 after he and his partner responded to the home where she died.
Her manner of death was ruled an accidental overdose, according to the medical examiner’s office.
After Rojas and his partner determined the woman was dead, the partner left the room and Rojas turned off his body-worn camera, but the camera caught the alleged fondling in the moments before the officer turned it back on because the devices have two-minute buffering periods to capture what happens right before they are activated, The Associated Press has previously reported.
Elizabeth Baggett’s 15-year-old son, Preston Sertich, said he had wanted to work in law enforcement until learning about the allegations.
“To David Rojas: After losing my Mom and processing what you did to her in her time of need, I can’t sleep. All I can think is, ‘Why?!’ How could you do something like that?” Sertich said in a statement. “You had to know what you were doing was undeniably wrong and immoral.”
Rojas was charged in December with one count of having sexual contact with human remains. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $20,000 bail, according to jail records.
Rojas’ criminal trial has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for September, according to online court records.
“This incident is extremely disturbing and does not represent the values of the Los Angeles Police Department,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at the time.