Liberty police response stirs concern
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
Residents in the area said a foot search should have been done.
LIBERTY — People close to a township woman who was found dead on her front porch early Monday after being locked out of her home all night are wondering if more could have been done to save her.
A neighbor who called 911 says the outcome might have been different if police officers, called twice, had gotten out of the car to listen and look.
Liberty police, however, will not change any policies regarding response to such calls, the police chief says.
Mary Rush, 87, of Mansell Drive, was found on her front porch, unconscious with severe cuts, just after 7 a.m. Monday. Police say the porch area was covered in blood. A large rock was also found by a nearby broken window.
Police have since determined that Rush, who suffered from a form of dementia, locked herself out and was cut trying to gain entry to the house. She died of hypothermia, police said.
Police had been called twice by Rebekah Huston, who lives three houses away on the opposite side of the street. Huston said she heard someone crying out about 3 a.m.
Huston can be heard on the 911 tape telling police she is unsure where the cries were coming from, but that they had been going on for an hour.
Huston said officers did arrive after each call to 911, but no foot search of the area was conducted.
“I had been hearing moans like someone was hurt outside, so I decided to call 911,” said Huston. “The first time they came they rode by really slow without using the [spot] lights and after they got past my house, they sped up and left. The second time they came out, they did shine the lights, but only on my side of the street.”
Rush lived on the opposite side of the street.
Huston said she did not want to go outside and search the area because she was unsure if the noise was coming from a potential intruder. She said her feeling was that the police are better equipped to handle such situations.
Huston and her husband found Rush on the porch the next morning.
Huston said she does not want to speak badly about the police department, but she said the whole situation could have been prevented if the officers had gotten out of the cars and waited to hear the moans.
Mary Lou Griffith, who has known Rush for 15 years, said she was upset to hear police officers had been sent to the area twice during the time Rush was likely outside. She said officers should have checked the area on foot even if it was raining.
“When you get a call and a second call 40 minutes later, doesn’t that tell you something is going on?” she asked.
John Kragel of Barth Drive, an 18-year friend of Rush’s, would visit her daily to help with medications and eat dinner with her two to three times a week. He said the police “surely should have found her.”
Police Chief Anthony Slifka said the department will not change any policies addressing calls for noises heard outside at night.
Slifka said the department has responded to numerous calls like the one made by Huston and will continue to respond to such calls in the same fashion. He said officers did canvass the area by car and just didn’t see anyone.
“We went out there and looked and didn’t see anything. These officers would not have left her out there if they had seen her,” he said. “Miss Rush could have been three blocks away and walking back when we got there. The point is, we don’t know.”
Rush has two sons, one living in Vienna Township and the other living in New Hampshire. The son in Vienna could not be reached.