Mo. chief accused of groping 71-year-old woman

By Heather Ratcliffe
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A third woman has filed a lawsuit accusing Bella Villa Police Chief Edward Locke Jr. of sexual misconduct. The 71-year-old claims he groped her breast.

Mary Lou Cavataio says her civil rights were violated in the incident in August in which she says Locke manhandled her husband outside their home in the tiny community just south of St. Louis.

She seeks unspecified compensation in the suit, filed Thursday in federal court.

Locke could not be reached for comment. Jessica Liss, an attorney for the city, said Bella Villa officials will investigate.

"The plaintiffs in this lawsuit have never contacted the city to complain or even to inform its governing officials of their allegations so that the city could properly investigate their claims," Liss said.

According to the suit:

William Cavataio, 76, was loading baseball cards into his sport utility vehicle when Locke approached, told him he was under arrest for a vehicle license violation and handcuffed him tightly. Locke kneed Cavataio, who collapsed and injured his back, the suit says.

Cavataio's wife heard him cry out and ran to help. Locke offered to call an ambulance, but Mary Lou Cavataio said she would drive her husband for treatment. Locke removed the handcuffs and wrote William Cavataio a ticket.

As the couple prepared to leave, the suit says, Locke stood at the driver's side door with his arm on the mirror, blocking their way; then Locke reached his hand into the open window and grabbed Mary Lou Cavataio's left breast, the suit says.

The plaintiff's lawyer, W. Bevis Schock, said the woman slapped his hand away before her husband saw what happened. The couple went to the hospital the next day, Schock said, where William Cavataio was treated for injury to his back.

The Cavataios contacted Schock after seeing news stories about earlier complaints.

In a suit filed last month, Diane Cook claims Locke inappropriately touched her buttocks and breast when he arrested her on suspicion of drunken driving in August 2005.

In February, two women jointly sued Locke and the city. Jami Neco Schmidt said Locke arrested her in June 2005 and forced her to pull down her pants so he could take several pictures of a tattoo, according to court documents. The other women later dropped her claim.

The municipality's attorney said officials will investigate the claims outlined in a lawsuit. The complaint is the third filed by women alleging improprieties.

Copyright 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
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