Questions raised over woman's death
ADDIS - The News 2 Investigative Unit uncovered serious problems with the investigation of a woman's death in West Baton Rouge Parish. Four different doctors who specialize in autopsies classified her death as a homicide, but the investigation is closed and no one has been arrested.
Addis Police Chief Ricky Anderson wasn't happy when News 2 began asking questions about Sandra Rinaudo's death. He demanded to know who tipped WBRZ off about this story. As we try to get answers for the family, we've encountered pushback and excuses from authorities.
Sandra Rinaudo loved life. She was 59 years old when she was found dead on August 9, 2013 in her home.
"She was a great mother, and she's greatly missed," Her daughter, Ragean Bellelo said.
It happened in the middle of the night on Aug. 9, 2013, starting with a 911 call from Rinaudo's home on Foret Street. Her husband pleaded for help with 911 operators, saying he'd found his wife unresponsive.
"She's not breathing, I can't wake her up," Eddie Rinaudo told dispatchers.
Rinaudo's body was removed from the house, and the West Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's office conducted a full autopsy. It was determined by Doctor Michael Cramer, who has decades of experience examining dead bodies, that Rinaudo had been killed. Her cause of death was listed as homicide from "multiple traumatic injuries. Her ribs were fractured, pancreas split in half and she had a broken nose."
Doctor Cramer declined to do an on-camera interview, but told News 2 in a written letter that "injuries such as these are only seen with severe trauma such as those in automobile accidents, aviation accidents or severe beatings." He said Rinaudo's injuries are completely consistent with the victim "succumbing to a savage beating."
That decision was also backed up by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's office, which issued a report stating they agreed and supported the cause and manner of death determination originally made by Dr. Padgett of the West Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's office.
"It's horrible," Bellelo said. "Horrible knowing my mom's death was classified as a homicide and there's no investigation being done."
Ragean Bellelo was so upset she was in close contact with Addis Police Chief, Ricky Anderson. A Facebook message we obtained from Anderson's account to Ragean Bellelo, says... "everybody agrees, it's a homicide." So we had to ask Anderson why his office is not looking for a killer.
"Did you ever tell the family that you thought it was a homicide," Nakamoto asked Anderson.
"Nope," Anderson responded.
"Are you sure," Nakamoto asked once again.
"Nope," Anderson reiterated.
"We have a facebook message that we obtained that came from your facebook account saying it's a homicide. Did you not send that," Nakamoto asked Anderson.
"I didn't say," Anderson said. "I said... I never said... I thought it was a homicide."
That's when Anderson got agitated and said he had enough. He walked away and added that no body has presented evidence it was a homicide.
Ragean Bellelo saw the entire case file and was shocked at what she discovered. According to the documents, Addis Police conducted their investigation with Eddie Rinaudo still in the house.
"During the investigation, the detectives were having him hold the tape measure on different objects, she could have fallen on," Bellelo said. "I saw the investigation pictures."
Eddie Rinaudo admitted to News 2 he was the last person in the house with his wife's dead body, and he helped investigators. Despite what four different doctors say about his wife's savage beating, Eddie has his own conclusion.
"I think she had a seizure and died," he told News 2.
Last year with the evidence collected, prosecutors took the case before a grand jury. After listening to testimony from witnesses, the grand jury came back with no true bill. The News 2 Investigative Unit has learned the pathologist who examined Sandra Rinaudo was never called to testify before the grand jury. Instead, the district attorney's office had a third party pathologist come in to interpret Dr. Cramer's report.
News 2 checked with other judicial districts about pathologist protocols. Four district attorney's offices in our area said they would have wanted the pathologist who examined the body to testify before having someone else read his report. But, that wasn't the case in West Baton Rouge Parish, where Ricky Ward is the district attorney. He did not return News 2's requests for an interivew.
The way the investigation was conducted, and the way D.A. Ricky Ward's office handled it, are concerning to family members.
"It's very infuriating," Bellelo said. "It makes it seem as though there's a lady who was a mother of 2, grandmother of 3 that in some people's opinion maybe her life wasn't important enough for them to get to the bottom of it, of who killed her."
After our interview with Chief Anderson, family members told the Investigative Unit that Anderson said no one could force him to reopen the investigation, and that he would investigate it at his leisure.
The News 2 Investigative Unit requested the entire case file on Sandra Rinaudo from the Addis Police Department, but Chief Anderson denied our request. The WBRZ Investigative Unit filed a lawsuit requesting the courts order the Addis Police Department to release those records, records we believe are public. A judge is expected to hear this matter within 14 days.