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Friday, June 10, 2011

[NYPD] 14 years ago today Bliss Verdon's life was stolen. NYPD failed to act on her complaints about her cop ex

Bliss Verdon thought the Police Department could help her when her former boyfriend, a transit police officer, began harassing her in May 1997.

"It's been 14 years since the murder-suicide that took both her and Rodney Dilbert's lives at the 77th and Roosevelt train stop in Queens... It wasn't Rodney Dilbert who failed her. It was the New York Police department who failed them both. His gun had been taken away from him before, and he was demoted to a transit cop, still carrying a service revolver despite his public suicidal ideations..."

..."This tragedy could have been averted if the hierarchy of the NYPD had acted promptly on the victim's complaint"... Ms. Verdon's case is an example of why domestic violence experts say the spouses of abusive police officers are especially vulnerable. Officers are often reluctant to turn in their colleagues. And some abusive officers use their connections inside the criminal justice system to block their victims' appeals for help. Some women are so sure the law enforcement system is stacked against them that they will not report the crime, the experts said. "These women are really all alone out there," said Maria Guarracino, of the Archdiocese of New York, who counsels victims of police spousal abuse. "There are just so few places for them to turn"...


At around 7 pm, CST, I was finishing up dinner, getting ready to put my not-yet-one-year-old to bed, when I started to get agitated and panicked. Then I felt empty. Alone. I was up the whole night, crying, feeling lost, holding my chest in pain, and in shock.

The next morning, my mother walked through the back door of my house and I knew. "He killed her." I knew.

My dear cousin Bliss was like a sister to me, a best friend with unconditional love that still had years left of ebbs and flows. Sometimes we saw each other many times a year, other times barely once. She was planning a trip to Minnesota to see us in August, but no more. Now, she was dead, by the service revolver of a man whom she had reported to his superiors on more than one occasion.

It's been 14 years since the murder-suicide that took both her and Rodney Dilbert's lives at the 77th and Roosevelt train stop in Queens. She would be 39 years old. She likely would have been thriving in a career and might even have her own family. Instead of being a dead relative that my kids see pictures of, she would have held my babies, and we would have laughed and cried with each other and held each other's hands and hearts through the rest of our lives.

It wasn't Rodney Dilbert who failed her. It was the New York Police department who failed them both. His gun had been taken away from him before, and he was demoted to a transit cop, still carrying a service revolver despite his public suicidal ideations.

Mental illness should never be discounted or hidden. I want to go the rest of my life without EVER hearing that another superior officer in ANY Police Department talked about handling a domestic violence situation, "cop to cop." Police departments attract people who like power and control. Some of that is necessary. But not when mental illness is involved. Not when young women who are being stalked by officers are involved.

I remember saying to Bliss, when she was dating Rodney, "Oh, Bliss, not a cop!" And when she broke up, I remember feeling relief. But getting away from him alive was not part of her story. Having her life ended in her early twenties is not the life anyone should ever have.

Bliss, you are and always will be missed.

Bliss had a passion for animals - all of them. She rescued whatever should could, and loved those that she couldn't rescue. She was the most beautiful person I have ever loved. From the day I met her. . the sparkle in her eyes was intense and magical. They brightened with each and every laugh. I will never, ever forget that. Even when times where tough, she was logical, smart, practical and hopeful. She was a free spirit who did things her own way. Always.



I met Bliss at our high school, Notre Dame, in Manhattan, during our freshman year. She was a cute, punky, pierced girl from Queens who somehow, managed to make our Catholic school uniform look cool, always wearing her white collar up under her blue sweater. I did not get to know her well since she transferred to the High School of the Humanities after the end of our freshman year, but in just one school year she made an impression on me. I always felt like she was a cool person with a good soul.

In 1997, Bliss made several complaints to the the police about her ex-boyfriend's stalking and harassing phone calls. Her ex-boyfriend, Rodney Dilbert, was a NYC transit cop. She began calling the police in early May. When her calls appeared to have taken no action, she went to the police precint on May 29th, her ex was still harrassing her. The police kept passing the buck. On June 10th, Bliss was fatally shot near a subway station at Roosevelt Avenue and 77th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens. She was 25 years old. Dilbert then shot and killed himself. Unfortunately, Bliss's attemtps to get police protection were ingored by the NYPD. This caused a media outrage and the dismissal of Sgt. Taggert, who was the first person to interview Bliss about the harrassment, but he failed to make a police report.
I will always remember Bliss as the smart, sweet, gothic girl teenager who I am sure grew up to be a brilliant young woman. My deepest sympathies go out to her family.

I took this photo of Bliss during a field trip to Ellis Island, with our freshmen Notre Dame class in 1986. A volunteer named Nick was kind enough to visit the cemetery and photograph Bliss's headstone, and sadly her mother's too, buried beside her. Her mother, Jo-Ann Cote, died of cancer four years after Bliss, her only child.


The Bliss Verdon Memorial Scholarship is available annually to one or two outstanding students at Stony Brook University, State University of New York, in recognition of strong academic performance and demonstrated commitment in the area of African issues. The Bliss Verdon Memorial scholarship has been established to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Bliss Verdon, a 1995 graduate of SUNY Stony Brook, who completed her BA in Africana Studies and Anthropology after spending a semester in Accra, Ghana. Ms. Verdon had planned to begin her graduate studies in International Relations with a focus on African issues in the Fall of 1997, but on June 10th of that year she was murdered in Jackson Heights, Queens, by an ex-boyfriend, a New York City police officer. ELIGIBILITY The Bliss Verdon Memorial Scholarship is open to full-time, upper-division students (junior or senior standing). Candidates must demonstrate an academic focus on and commitment to African issues in their university coursework, as well as a need for financial assistance, and a commitment to helping others... [LINK]

FACEBOOK: In Memory of Bliss
a group to remember and honor those who have died, especially those who have died young. Founded on June 10, 2008, the 11th anniversary of the murder of Bliss Verdon at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, a NYC transit cop. [LINK]

New York Times
Published: Friday, June 13, 1997
Her friends and colleagues at New York University are deeply saddened by her tragic and senseless death. We extend our hearts and loving sympathy to her family and to all her friends. ''There is not room for Death, Nor atom that his might could render void; Since thou art Being and Breath And what thou art may never be destroyed.'' Emily Bronte.

New York Times
Jun 12, 1997
[Excerpts] A police officer who killed his former girlfriend and himself in Queens on Tuesday had been the subject of a harassment complaint she filed two weeks ago, and the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau had been planning to question him about it, police officials said yesterday. "Internal Affairs was brought in," said Officer Olga Mercado, a Police Department spokeswoman. "He was going to be questioned on it, but they never got to it." The officer, Rodney Dilbert, 28, who was assigned to the Transit Bureau in Manhattan, shot his former girlfriend, Bliss Verdon, 25, three times in the chest as she talked on a pay telephone at the corner of 77th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. Officer Dilbert, who was off duty at the time, then committed suicide with a single gun shot to the head. He used a Glock 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun, the Police Department's standard-issue service weapon... On May 29, Ms. Verdon filed a complaint against Officer Dilbert at the 115th Precinct in Queens, accusing him of aggravated harassment, Officer Mercado said. The complaint alleged "harassing and annoying behavior," including threatening phone calls and letters, Officer Mercado said. Deputy Chief Lawrence F. Loesch, the commander of Queens detectives, said on Tuesday night that Officer Dilbert and Ms. Verdon had been involved in a relationship for about a year but had broken up sometime in the last few months...


Jun 12, 1997
[Excerpts] The woman [Bliss Verdon] who was shot on a busy Jackson Heights thoroughfare Monday evening had filed harassment charges last month against her former boyfriend, a police officer who killed her and himself, police said. Although Bliss Verdon, 25, filed charges, she told investigators she felt more annoyed than threatened by him, law-enforcement sources said. "All she wanted was for the telephone calls to stop," the source said... Apparently Verdon did not realize to what extremes the former boyfriend, Police Officer Rodney Dilbert, 29, would go to keep her. Dilbert walked up to Verdon as she made a telephone call from a pay phone on Roosevelt Avenue at 77th Street... pulled out his service pistol and shot Verdon three times. Dilbert then put the barrel of the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger... Verdon began dating Dilbert last year, investigators said. Verdon broke off the relationship. On May 29, she filed an aggravated-harassment charge against Dilbert, said Lt. Steven Biegel, a police spokesman... "She filed a complaint for aggravated harassment, and he was annoying her with telephone calls and letters."


Albany - Times Union.
Jun 14, 1997. p. B.8
QUEENS, NY -- Bliss Verdon, of Queens, NY, died tragically on June 10, 1997. Loving daughter of Jo-Ann Cote; beloved niece of Teresa Lothian; cherished friend of many. Visiting will be held at the McCaddin & Sons Funeral Home, 24 7th Avenue Park Slope, NY Sunday 2-5, 7-9 p.m., the Morse Funeral Home, 33 Railroad Avenue, Middletown, NY Monday 2-4, 7-9 p.m. Funeral Mass Tuesday 10:00 a.m. Holy Name Church, Otisville, NY. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Brooklyn Animal Resource Colition, 253 Wythe Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11222. For further information please contact DeVine Funeral Home (516) 922-6700.


Jun 16, 1997
[Excerpts] ... Here's the department's version of its dealings with Bliss Verdon shortly before she was shot to death last week in Jackson Heights by her ex-boyfriend, transit Police Officer Rodney Dilbert. On May 29, Verdon filed a complaint at Queens' 115th Precinct of aggravated harassment against Dilbert, consisting of letters and telephone calls he'd recently made to her. Internal Affairs was notified, as were Queens Duty Capt. Kenneth Wegweisner and Duty Insp. Charles Gunther. On June 4, Verdon informed Dilbert's superior, Capt. Stephen Savas, of Dilbert's harassment but added she didn't feel threatened by him. Savas notified the Transit Bureau's inspections unit and Dilbert's squad commander. Here's what DCPI isn't saying. Sometime after Verdon filed her complaint, a sergeant was said to have visited her at home and tried to talk her out of pressing charges. He himself may now be facing them...


New York Times
Aug 7, 1997
[Excerpts] A veteran New York City police sergeant has been dismissed for mishandling an emergency call from a woman who later was killed by her ex-boyfriend, a transit police officer. The sergeant, John Taggart, was assigned to investigate a May 4 call for help from Bliss Verdon, 25, who complained that she was being harassed by the officer, Rodney Dilbert. Sergeant Taggart spoke with Officer Dilbert but failed to notify superiors of the accusation of misconduct, an internal police trial found... Sergeant Taggart's lawyer, George Cerrone, said his client had been made a scapegoat to protect higher-ranking officers who mishandled the case.


New York Daily News
Thursday, August 7th 1997
[Excerpts] An NYPD sergeant fired for botching the harassment complaint of a woman who was shot dead by her cop ex-boyfriend lashed out at the department yesterday, charging he was a scapegoat for cop brass. Sixteen-year veteran Sgt. John Taggart, a delegate in the Sergeants Benevolent Association, also said he was targeted because of his union activities and pledged to fight the firing in court. Taggart, a supervisor in the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights, Queens, was fired after a departmental trial in which he was found guilty of lying under oath when he said the victim never told him her harasser was a cop. Taggart said higher-ups in the Internal Affairs Bureau and Transit Division erred by letting 11 days pass before assigning an investigator to look into a complaint by Bliss Verdon... "This tragedy could have been averted if the hierarchy of the NYPD had acted promptly on the victim's complaint," Taggart said yesterday... The sergeant visited Verdon's apartment May 4 to investigate a harassment complaint. He insisted she never mentioned the man harassing her was a cop. Taggart's firing was based on a statement by Verdon's roommate, who said she overheard Verdon telling the sergeant the harasser was an officer... Police Commissioner Howard Safir said last week that other high-ranking officials will face charges as a result of the deadly foulup.


New York Daily News
Monday, September 22th 1997

Police supervisors failed to take the required steps that might have prevented the fatal shooting of a Queens social worker by a city cop who was her ex-boyfriend.

Bliss Verdon, a vibrant, caring coordinator at a violence-prevention program, gave cops every chance to protect her life. She called 911, filed a stalking complaint and then made a followup call after nothing was done.

But it wasn't enough.

A police investigation has revealed how Verdon, 25, was slain after lapses in police judgment and lax supervision.

Reports reviewed by the Daily News and interviews with police investigators provide a rare look at the anatomy of a murder.

Verdon was gunned down June 10 as she used a pay phone on Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, Queens. Transit cop Rodney Dilbert fired eight shots from a 9-mm. pistol at her, then fired the ninth into his mouth.

According to the investigation:

Verdon went to the 115th Precinct stationhouse May 29 to file a stalking complaint. But cops didn't assign it to an investigator until June 10 the day Verdon was slain. They were required to do it immediately.

Dilbert's record his gun had been taken away temporarily in 1994 was never checked.

The morning after Verdon filed her complaint, a sergeant offered to reinterview her to determine "how aggressive [Dilbert] may be," but a captain rejected the offer. Investigators questioned the captain a week after Verdon's murder. The next day, the captain called the sergeant and asked: "Did I do this?"

Verdon telephoned Dilbert's commanding officer June 4 to find out why nothing was being done on her complaint, but the captain didn't interview Dilbert because the cop worked a different tour, from 4 p.m. to midnight.

A traffic ticket issued to powerful Queens State Sen. Emanuel Gold preoccupied Transportation Bureau Chief Kenneth Donohue who commands 6,000 transit and traffic cops when he was notified about Verdon's initial complaint June 5.

The police handling of Verdon's complaints has devastated her mother, Jo-Ann Cote.

"The fact that my daughter complained, she called 911, she went to a police station all that should have gotten Rodney relieved of his guns," said Cote. "This girl died because there is evidently no way to set off bells and whistles about an officer who carries a gun."

Police Commissioner Howard Safir has admitted that cops mishandled the case. In August, he fired 16-year veteran Sgt. John Taggart the only cop to interview Verdon for botching the initial interview and failing to make a report.

But Taggart's errors in responding to Verdon's 911 call on May 5 were merely the first of many.

Verdon and Dilbert met in a Manhattan nightclub in May 1996 and quickly became intimate, spending most weekends together.

She grew up in Maspeth, Queens, attending the High School for the Humanities. She graduated in 1995 from SUNY Stony Brook, where she majored in anthropology and minored in African studies.

Her senior year at college was spent in Ghana.

"She believed that democracy was for everybody and the standard of living we have here was something that all the African countries needed," her mother said.

When Verdon died, she was a program associate at AmeriCorps Project Safety Net, a nationwide network of violence-prevention programs.

Less is known about Dilbert, a cop for four years assigned to District 4 in Union Square. He lived on Staten Island, where his brother is a highway cop.

He was crazy about Verdon, whose co-workers described her as "fiercely independent, bright and caring."

The relationship began to deteriorate by the end of 1996. That Christmas, Verdon told her mother that she had wished for "a new boyfriend."

They broke up around the start of this year, and within a month Verdon took in a roommate, childhood friend Carol Gose.

Gose told police that Dilbert often phoned the apartment. She said Dilbert was desperate to resume the relationship, begging her to put in a good word for him.

Cote said her daughter told her that she was changing jobs and moving to a new apartment and she swore Dilbert was not going to find out where.

At some point, Dilbert's phone calls evolved into threats. In a telephone message left on Verdon's machine, Dilbert launched into a curse-laden diatribe, calling her "white fking trash" and blasting her for breaking up with him.

He ended the message by saying: "You can't do st to me, you dumb bitch. Just shut up. Whore!"

Dilbert's aggression spurred Verdon to call 911 on May 5 her first contact with the police. She told the operator about Dilbert's harassment. The information was forwarded to Taggart because any allegation against a cop must be investigated by a sergeant.

Taggart visited Verdon in her Jackson Heights apartment. While he was there, Dilbert called. Taggart grabbed the phone and warned Dilbert to stop calling or he would be arrested.

Taggart who maintains that Verdon never told him her ex-boyfriend was a cop left without taking a report or notifying the Internal Affairs Bureau, as required. Taggart is suing to get his job back. He told The News he was the "fall guy."

Taggart's errors were just the first of several mistakes.

On May 29, Verdon made her second complaint, visiting the 115th Precinct stationhouse, where she was questioned by a civilian clerk.

The clerk filled out a report noting harassing phone calls and an incident in which Dilbert followed Verdon on the train on her way to work, confronting her and becoming "somewhat aggressive."

The clerk failed to notify any supervisor about the accusation against a cop violating police procedure.

About 4:30 a.m. on May 30, Verdon's complaint, No. 005780, was discovered in a pile of paper work by a desk sergeant, who called the duty captain, Kenneth Wegweiser responsible for supervising eight precincts in Queens North.

Wegweiser was preoccupied with updating Donohue about a summons issued the night before to Gold (D-Forest Hills) for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, a police report shows.

Gold had phoned Safir's office to complain. Now Wegweiser was trying to update First Deputy Police Commissioner Patrick Kelleher, Chief of Department Louis Anemone and Donohue.

Wegweiser told Internal Affairs Bureau investigators that he tried to brief Donohue about the Verdon case. According to Wegweiser, Donohue said he was chiefly concerned about updating Kelleher on Gold's ticket, the IAB report said.

Police spokeswoman Marilyn Mode said Donohue denies Wegweiser's account. Donohue did not return calls for comment.

"My daughter's life is far more important than any politician's ticket," said Verdon's mom. "No one along the line has been willing to take responsibility. Right up the line they passed the buck."

If proper procedure had been followed, Verdon would have been interviewed immediately after her complaint May 29. Super-visors should have been immediately notified, and Dilbert's record should have been checked.

Dilbert's background revealed that his guns were taken from him in 1994 after he pointed his weapon at his head and another officer's head in a bar pulling the trigger several times, police investigators said. The gun was unloaded.

Wegweiser also failed to comply with an NYPD Interim Order in February dealing with the handling of domestic-violence cases involving cops. It compels the duty captain to "commence an immediate investigation."

Wegweiser, who refused to comment, did exactly the opposite.

After getting the complaint May 30, he called the inspector on duty, Charles Gunther, and read it to him. They agreed that the details were vague and deemed it "not serious," Gunther told IAB investigators.

Around 6:15 a.m. on May 30, a sergeant from the Queens North inspections unit arrived for work at the 115th Precinct and was briefed by Wegweiser about Gold's summons and the Verdon case.

The sergeant, Peter DiBlasio, told investigators that he offered "two or three times" to interview Verdon, but the captain told him it was not necessary, NYPD records show.

Wegweiser had decided the case would be examined by the transit investigations unit because Dilbert was a transit cop.

Wegweiser faxed his report to the investigations unit, but nothing was done because transit does not open a probe until directed to do so by IAB.

A lieutenant in the investigations unit told IAB later that he thought Wegweiser's report was merely for informational purposes, according to a police memo.

Verdon's case, meanwhile, was still in bureaucratic limbo, landing at IAB on June 2, where an assessment team kicked it back to the chief of patrol's office for referral to Queens North inspections.

Verdon was becoming concerned that she had not heard from anyone. The harassing calls were continuing.

So on June 4, she called Dilbert's commanding officer, Capt. Steven Savas, at District 4 to inquire about the status of her complaint.

Investigators familiar with the case said Savas had concluded that Verdon did not feel in danger and just wanted the harassing calls to stop.

Having been assigned to the district for three months, Savas consulted with Dilbert's immediate supervisor to determine whether he was acting erratically. Savas was told the cop appeared fine. He could have taken away Dilbert's guns. Instead, he told the supervisor to keep tabs on him.

The next day, the case arrived at the chief of patrol's office, sitting there for five days. It was finally assigned June 10 the same day Verdon died.


May 5, 1997

2:12 p.m. Bliss Verdon calls 911 to report harassment from Officer Rodney Dilbert, her ex-boyfriend.

2:30 p.m. Cops visit Verdon. When Dilbert phones her, Sgt. John Taggart threatens him with arrest. No report is filed.

May 29, 1997

8:30 p.m. Verdon goes to the 115th Precinct to file stalking and harassment complaint against Dilbert. No one tells a supervisor that an allegation of misconduct has been made against a cop.

May 30, 1997

Midnight 4 a.m. The Queens duty captain, Kenneth Wegweiser, is ordered to look into a traffic summons just issued to State Sen. Emanuel Gold.

4:30 a.m. Wegweiser is finally notified of Verdon's complaint. Preoccupied with the Gold matter, Wegweiser and a duty inspector determine there is no immediate threat and take no immediate action.

June 2, 1997

The police Internal Affairs Bureau refers Verdon's complaint to the chief of patrol, to be forwarded to the Queens North Inspections Unit.

June 4, 1997

4:30 p.m. Verdon calls Dilbert's boss, Capt. Steven Savas, to find out why nobody has called her about the complaint. Savas consults with Dilbert's immediate supervisor, who reports no unusual behavior. No one questions Dilbert; no action is taken.

June 5

Paper work on Verdon's complaint finally arrives at chief of patrol's office in Police Headquarters.

June 10

11:15 a.m. The complaint is sent to the transit bureau inspections unit because Dilbert is a transit cop.

6:03 p.m. Dilbert, who is off-duty, fatally shoots Verdon, then kills himself.


New York Daily News
Apr 6, 1998. p. 6

A veteran police captain is facing dismissal for failing to properly investigate a domestic violence complaint against a cop who later killed his ex-girlfriend and himself, the Daily News has learned.

Capt. Kenneth Wegweiser is the highest-ranking police official facing disciplinary charges to date in a case marked by repeated blunders in judgment and lax supervision that might have prevented the Queens tragedy.

The series of mistakes, uncovered by The News last year, has resulted in the dismissals of a sergeant and a clerk from the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights. A second sergeant is also facing charges.

The victim, Bliss Verdon, 25, was shot dead June 10, 1997, on Roosevelt Ave. by transit cop Rodney Dilbert, who had been stalking and harassing the woman since their breakup about six months earlier.

Dilbert, 28, then placed his 9-mm. handgun in his mouth and fired.

Wegweiser, a 24-year veteran, was the duty captain last May 30 when Verdon filed an aggravated harassment complaint against the cop.

According to internal investigative reports, Wegweiser was preoccupied at the time with investigating a traffic summons issued to an influential Queens politician for allegedly driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

State Sen. Emanuel Gold (D-Queens) had complained to Police Commissioner Howard Safir about the ticket, and Wegweiser was fielding calls from the first deputy commissioner and top chiefs who wanted updates.

Wegweiser told Internal Affairs investigators that when he tried to brief former NYPD Transportation Chief Kenneth Donohue about the harassment complaint, Donohue indicated he was more concerned about Gold's summons.

The captain rejected a sergeant's suggestion to interview Verdon immediately, deciding it would be handled by transit officials since Dilbert was a transit cop.

Verdon's complaint bounced around the NYPD bureaucracy for 11 days while top brass tried to figure out whose jurisdiction the complaint fell under. She was gunned down the day her complaint was finally assigned to a detective.

Sources said Wegweiser has been offered a deal to avoid a dismissal trial by forfeiting 30 days' pay, then retire.

His lawyer, Philip Karasyck, declined to comment on any negotiations.

"It is our hope that the department will deal with him in a fair and judicious manner based on his record and the facts," Karasyck said.


WHEN ABUSE WEARS BLUE - A special report.; New York Police Lag in Fighting Domestic Violence by Officers
New York Times
November 1, 1998
[Excerpts] ...Bliss Verdon thought the Police Department could help her when her former boyfriend, a transit police officer, began harassing her in May 1997. When Ms. Verdon, a 25-year-old social worker, reported that Officer Rodney Dilbert had left an angry and abusive diatribe on her answering machine, a sergeant went to her home in Queens to investigate. While he was there, Officer Dilbert called and the sergeant took the telephone, saying he would handle the matter "cop to cop," according to a police report. He scolded Officer Dilbert, but filed no official report with the Internal Affairs Bureau. Three weeks later Officer Dilbert was back. He trailed Ms. Verdon on the subway, shoved her into a parked car and tried to force his way into the office building where she worked, according to police records. Frightened, she went to the 115th Precinct station house near her home to file a complaint. But police commanders who would speak only on the condition of anonymity said precinct supervisors were delayed in investigating the complaint because they were busy handling another matter... Two days later, officials decided Officer Dilbert was not an imminent threat and took no action. Although Ms. Verdon called the station again, it was not until June 10 that her complaint was assigned to transit investigators. By then it was too late. That evening, Officer Dilbert killed Ms. Verdon, shooting her eight times with his service pistol while she used a phone booth near her home. Then he killed himself. Police Commissioner Howard Safir fired one of the six supervisors involved in the Verdon case and forced another to retire, but he said the tragedy was caused by a failure of "individuals, not the system." Ms. Verdon's mother, Jo-Ann Cote, still blames the department. "My daughter didn't have to die," Ms. Cote said. "She did everything she could do to make them aware of this man threatening her, this man who had their gun. The Police Department just didn't want to deal with it." Ms. Verdon's case is an example of why domestic violence experts say the spouses of abusive police officers are especially vulnerable. Officers are often reluctant to turn in their colleagues. And some abusive officers use their connections inside the criminal justice system to block their victims' appeals for help. Some women are so sure the law enforcement system is stacked against them that they will not report the crime, the experts said. "These women are really all alone out there," said Maria Guarracino, of the Archdiocese of New York, who counsels victims of police spousal abuse. "There are just so few places for them to turn"...
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence ipv abuse law enforcement public safety lethal fatality fatalities murder-suicide new york state politics]


  1. If anyone else would like to submit something for this post for Bliss just let me know. I found a string of you remembering Bliss through a search I did on Facebook tonight, and sent you links. I just wanted to let you know that Bliss will not be forgotten, and others are loving and missing her too.

    1. Hello ,I met Bliss at work ,park house on long island we dated for a short time. It's hard for me to explain how wonderful it was to know her for the time I did. We drifted apart. Years later I did a search for her and found out what happened to her, I was heartbroken. I always thought we might bump into one another sometime but the last time I saw her was the last time I would ever see her.

      She was an amazing person and she is truly missed

      Erick T.

  2. From a family member:

    "Thank you so much for posting this. I had family members read this that had never read/heard the whole story. Now they know. Great information. Some I had never seen."

  3. PO Jeffrey GirondaJune 24, 2011

    I am a NYC police officer. I worked with PO Dilbert in the last few months before this horrible tragedy. I remember seeing Bliss' pictures in his locker. I remember feeling so terrible after we all heard the news of the horrific act perpetrated by one of our own. I was a rookie and it was the first time I felt ashamed of something somebody did who wore the same uniform as I do.
    I never forgot this story, or that feeling. I now instruct new police recruits in the NYC police academy, and I share that story with each new class I get. I hope by telling her story to new police officers that there is something positive that might come from her shameful and tragic loss. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family. We still and always will remember Bliss.

  4. I love you!!!! Thank you for sharing that and for doing what you can to make things better.

  5. I am a Dilbert, and I am so sorry for the loss of Bliss' innocent short life. So many ppl are still hurting behind this incident including my family. NYPD has gotten it wrong so many times. Rodney clearly was in need of some therapy but the way NYPD handles them when they request help they are afraid to come forward. Rodney was a sweet, kind hearted guy, raised in a two parent household with five siblings. He loved animals, sports and his family. He would bake cakes for his mom regularly and bring them to her home when he visited. He also honorably served in the United States Army before starting his career with NYPD. I know these were horrific circumstances but he was no monster. He was a young guy in love who could not accept rejection. This former love story had a tragic ending that I'm sure we all wish we could change. My family is truly sorry for your loss. May the memories you have of her give you peace in your darkest hours. THE DILBERT FAMILY

  6. Thank, Dilbert Family. I am still so very sad for your loss. I had many emotions around this time, and I remember for many years wishing that I could meet Rodney's family. And cry with you. My heart goes out to all of you for how poorly his needs were handled. Rodney's issues were so much more than being a guy in love who couldn't handle rejection. He was someone who the NYPD turned their back on.
    Bliss' cousin, Jeanne

  7. MY SISTER BLISS who I was only able to share a short time of love and companionship, who I loved so very much. My children miss and remember their Aunt Bliss and the times we did have together ones that will never be forgotten visits, birthdays and holidays. I cry alot to this day missing the sister I had that took so long to find, her smile would light up the room. It always felt like we were never apart so much alike in so many ways. I know in my heart and god has shown me that my sister Bliss is with him in heaven and at peace in his love. I truly miss u Bliss. Your sister Jeanne Mclear

  8. K. O. AmonooDecember 23, 2013

    I, too, knew beautiful Bliss Verdon. What a shame such a special person had to go through such a harrowing experience. Bliss was so full of fun and she shared with me her unique perspective(s) on Life. Being from Ghana, where she had spent time studying the culture and volunteering to make my homeland a better place, I felt a special affinity with Bliss. May her precious soul continue to rest in perfect peace. We love and miss you, Bliss..Nana Kweku Owusu Amonoo, Busan, South Korea.

  9. In 1985 there was a domestic marital thing between a nypd cop and a nytransit cop. I was retired and lived across the street in the Bronx. I was very close friends with them both for years. I was running nite-clubs in downtown NYC and bringing carnivals up from FL.. My security company that was in operation had used 27 different nyc transit cops and nypd cops to do the work ad it was great. I had worked with the guy in transit PD.. They both worked for me for extra money. We were all friends,the entire network of cops. The couple had been having what seemed as normal marital spats and one day there was a knock on my door in the middle of the night. It was the female who told me they had just had a bad argument and needed to stay in my house because she was afraid because of what she had done. It turned out it was a marital affair with another cop and he found out by trailing her around. She asked me to stay at my house and of course I said yes. I gave her a key and told her to try to go to sleep and keep the tv on very low volume. She could then go to her brothers house in Rockland county in the morning. Ihad business to do in the morning and left while she was asleep. I knew he would never find her there so she was safe and she was. No cell phone back then.I knew them so well that in my mind there was no way violence could enter into the deal. I thought with a little time all would get straight. DID NOT WORK OUT THAT WAY. She later drove to ROCKLAND COUNTY to her brothers house and he found her there hours later. She came out to the car to talk to him and it did not work. He shot her 5 times and killed her and ran in the woods in a blackout; i.e. emotional. He laid there under some leaves for 57 hours escaping a huge manhunt. The next day her sister called me and told me what had happened. Iwas friends with her brother in law so they had my phone number. The call was an overwhelming shock. I was so sad that it turned out that way. You just could not see it coming. It was 30 years ago. I later moved to FL. IN 1988. He got my telephone # and called every couple of months for many years. I still to this day miss them both and so does all that knew them. Her family was so nice but I think they may have known something was wrong. I never talked to them. It was just one of those things. It was 1985. The story of Milta Ruiz and John Breutsch. She was only 23 and He was 39. I know all the other names of all connected with this tragedy but it makes no sense to mention them.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share this.

    2. Did you know Milta Ruiz and John Breutsch, or do they stand out in your memory because they were in the news? I see the New York Times still has news of them:

      By EDWARD HUDSON, Special to the New York Times
      Published: August 17, 1986
      NEW CITY, N.Y., Aug. 16— Looking pale and drawn, John Bruetsch mainly sits and stares at the defense table in Rockland County Court here as his trial on charges of murdering his wife, a fellow police officer, unfolds before him. Officer Bruetsch, 40 years old and a 17-year veteran of the New York transit police force, took the stand this week and testified that he does not remember dragging his wife, Milta, from her brother's home in Piermont, N.Y., and shooting her five times last Oct. 29, as the prosecution charges...



    3. Tell me here or email me and I will do a post for them.

      No one's stolen life should be forgotten.

  10. I was a rookie cop in the same NSU 8 training unit with Milta. I remember boyfriend at the time John always showing up at her assigned post to check up on her. I used to joke with her about how jealous he was and that he didn't trust her because he was so much older. I didn't think he would kill her over it.

    Milta was such a sweet person. In the couple of years that I knew her we became good friends along with my ex-wife who also was a rookie officer with us. I still miss her.

    1. Hey Archie. I was also in the 40 when Milta was murdered. John Bruetsch is still in prison and is up for a parole hearing this month (7/2016).
      Bob G.


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