The family of a woman fatally shot outside her home by her daughter’s ex-boyfriend has sued Pierce County.
Filed Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges the Sheriff’s Department should have done more to investigate crimes the killer committed before the shooting.
If the department had, the family contends, 20-year-old Austin Moores Nelson would have been arrested before he had the chance to shoot 46-year-old Teresa Ryan on Jan. 18, 2016.
Ryan’s family filed a $32 million claim against the county, a precursor to a lawsuit, in July — about six months after her death. The lawsuit that followed this week, filed by husband Brent Ryan, seeks unspecified damages.
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Moores Nelson dated Teresa Ryan’s teenage daughter, starting in September 2015, when she was 15. Ryan tried to stop them, and the girl broke up with Moores Nelson days before the shooting.
The lawsuit says Moores Nelson broke into the Ryans’ home on South Hill and took guns and other belongings in the weeks before Teresa Ryan’s death. It says he also vandalized the daughter’s car and posted naked images of her online.
“A probable cause of the death of Ms. Ryan was the failure of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department to perform and execute the reasonable duties of a law enforcement agency by failing to take any action to pursue or even question Nelson despite his escalation in criminal behavior that eventually led to murder,” the lawsuit reads.
It says the Sheriff’s Department was told Moores Nelson was the suspect in those crimes. The Sheriff’s Department has said investigators did not have Moores Nelson’s name until the day before the shooting, leaving them with little time to investigate.
“If you don’t tell us what you know, we cannot act on what you neglected to tell us,” Sheriff Paul Pastor said in a statement last year, after the claim was filed.