Investigative Unit: Murder clues ignored by police
ADDIS - There's new information tonight surrounding a death investigation in West Baton Rouge Parish. The News 2 Investigative Unit found the Addis Police Department ignored clues that were given to Police Chief Ricky Anderson surrounding the death of Sandra Rinaudo, which was ruled a homicide.
Last month the News 2 Investigative Unit found serious problems with the way the death was investigated by the Addis Police Department and subsequently handled for prosecution by District Attorney Ricky Ward's office. Our investigation showed Sandra Rinaudo's medical experts believe she was savagely beaten to death, but her death wasn't investigated as a homicide. Her ribs were fractured, pancreas split in half and she had a broken nose. Our investigation showed when District Attorney Ricky Ward's office presented it to a grand jury, it used a third party pathologist to interpret the original pathologist's report. That is unusual, according to local coroners.
Medical records the News 2 Investigative Unit obtained from Sandra Rinaudo's daughter paint a troubled home life. Before Sandra Rinaudo died, she pleaded for help discussing the severe beatings she endured, allegedly by her husband Eddie Rinaudo. Our investigation shows the married couple had a volatile relationship.
Wanda Thompson and Velta Nicholas were Rinaudo's closest confidantes. Before she died, she sought counseling for drinking. Thomopson was Rinaudo's nurse, and Nicholas was her therapist. Thompson said Rinaudo would tell her outside their sessions that she was afraid her husband was going to beat her to death.
"'If something happens to me, Eddie probably did it,'" Thompson said. "That's what she (Rinaudo) said to me."
Court records show Addis Police were called to the Rinado household at least four times for family disputes from 2007 until 2010. Each time Sandra Rinaudo was the person arrested for domestic abuse battery. Each time, her husband Eddie dropped the charges.
Yet, medical records detail the mental and physical abuse Sandra Rinaudo endured. On February 25, 2008, Rinaudo went to the Baton Rouge General after she was kicked in the stomach and had a laceration to her upper lip. The report noted Rinaudo's husband Eddie was in the back of a police car.
"She told them on one occasion, he kicked her in the stomach and broke a rib," Thompson said.
In August of 2010, it was noted, "Sandy was slung across the patio by her husband like a rag doll. We are encouraging Sandy to go to the doctor and get her legs photographed, and have her husband charged with domestic violence." It was also noted in the report, "This is several times she has been beaten by her husband."
When the Addis Police Department investigated it didn't request those records and didn't listen to what Rinaudo's therapists had to say. While the Investigative Unit was looking into this, Thompson called Addis Chief Ricky Anderson personally to tell him her concerns, but Anderson didn't want to listen.
"He said, now Chris Nakamoto is asking me questions and Channel 2 is investigating it, so I appreciate your time, but I'm going to let Channel 2 investigate it," Thompson recalls Anderson saying.
Last month when we asked Anderson about why the death is not being investigated as a homicide, we caught him off-guard. A Facebook message Anderson sent to Rinaudo's daughter, Ragean Bellelo says, "everybody agrees it's a homicide."
However, Anderson was not clear about what he meant when we asked if he sent that message. He denied doing so.
"I didn't say... I said... I never said I thought it was a homicide," Anderson said.
The information we obtained, the way the investigation was conducted, and the lack of an open investigation concern Rinaudo's daughter.
"The number one suspect holding the tape measure while pictures are being taken, I've never heard of such before," Bellelo said.
"Yeah, they wanted to take some measurements in the house," Eddie Rinaudo said.
Eddie Rinaudo, Sandy's husband has maintained his innocence. We asked him if he ever hit his wife, telling him we have documents that indicate that.
"No, I hadn't beaten my wife, no," Eddie Rinaudo said.
Sandy Rinaudo's counselors don't buy that answer.
"I would tell Sandy, you can go to the police and authorities," Nicholas said. "She would tell me they aren't going to do anything. Eddie always told me they aren't going to do anything."
The investigation conducted by Addis Police and the lack of concern about information that could have helped their investigation leaves medical experts to wonder if a killer is getting away with murder.
"Sandy did not deserve this. An animal does not deserve this. I want to see justice for her. She's dead. I have to say what I know," Nicholas said.
"Sandy deserves justice," Thompson said.
It's important to note when the District Attorney's Office presented this case to the grand jury, the two women in this report did not testify. The pathologist who performed Rinaduo's autopsy also did not testify.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit is suing the Addis Police Department over records we requested involving this case. The Addis Police Department denied our request for records we believe are public since the investigation is closed. The matter is set to go to court tomorrow morning.