Girl's death leads to suit Edgewood teen died after being raped and left out in cold

'System broke down'

Mother accuses Harford officials of bungling 911 call

November 12, 1998|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The mother of a 15-year-old Edgewood girl raped and left outside where she died of exposure three years ago has filed a $1 million lawsuit accusing county officials of bungling a 911 call that might have saved the teen's life.

Tiffany Artina Fouts -- who had been attending a party at a townhouse in the Harford Square development in Edgewood and had become intoxicated -- was raped, carried unconscious from the home and left partly clothed in a narrow strip of woods, authorities said.

Fouts' death prompted a campaign by opponents of underage drinking and led to the passage of a state law that makes adults liable for fines up to $1,000 if they knowingly allow minors to drink in their homes, even if the adults do not buy the alcohol.

The suit filed Monday in Harford County Circuit Court on behalf of Fouts' mother, Sarah Fried, alleges that a 19-year-old partygoer anonymously called 911 to alert authorities to Fouts' whereabouts shortly after she was taken from the home.

The caller gave authorities a partly incorrect street address but indicated that Fouts was "in back of the woods" on K Court at Harford Square, according to the suit. The directions were close enough, the suit alleges, that authorities should have been able to find her on the freezing night as a winter storm moved through.

The suit also contends that Kim Archer, a communications officer with Harford County Emergency Operations, reported the address to Deputy Sheriff Kevin L. Thomas as J Court rather than K and failed to mention the wooded area.

The suit says that Thomas searched the J Court area and reported not finding the girl. It accuses him of being negligent for not seeking more information about the call. The girl's partly-clad body was found the next morning by a neighbor walking her dog.

Neither Archer nor Thomas could be reached for comment yesterday.

Today is the third anniversary of the day Fouts was found dead in the woods near the development on Charlestown Drive.

Fried's lawyer, Clifford L. Hardwick, said yesterday that Fried is struggling to cope with the loss of her daughter, who was a Joppatowne High School sophomore and cheerleader.

"She was a sweet, family-oriented girl who was lulled into a false sense of security," Hardwick said. "One of the perpetrators initially tried to reach out to the emergency system, which failed. The system broke down."

Charges against the anonymous caller to 911 were dropped in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. Two other youths tried in juvenile court were found delinquent on charges of second-degree murder, and one was found delinquent on a charge of battery.

Accused of liability in the suit involving Fouts' death are Chief James Terrell, head of Emergency Operations; the Sheriff's Office; an unidentified 911 operator; the county; the state; and Tresa N. Fox, the mother of the boy who threw the party.

Fox, who was home during her son's party, has said she was unaware of what was occurring in the house.

She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sgt. Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Harford Sheriff's Office, said authorities had not studied the complaint and would not comment.

Ernest A. Crofoot, attorney for Harford County, also declined to comment on the suit.

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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