PASCO -- The nanny for a Pasco couple who have been at the center of a murder conspiracy is suing her former employers, claiming they damaged her reputation with allegations that she drugged the kids and hatched the plot to kill their father.
Shalena Kae Millward filed a lawsuit this week in Franklin County Superior Court against Michelle and John David Murdock.
The 38-year-old Kennewick woman was fired by Dave Murdock on Sept. 6, six weeks after he and the nanny told authorities that Michelle Murdock allegedly was plotting to inject her husband with a tranquilizer and throw him down the stairs or over a balcony.
Millward was a key witness in the criminal case. She has said that when she wouldn't back down, Dave Murdock tried to discredit her testimony by saying he believed she was going to leave town with his kids.
She is now restrained from having contact with the Murdocks or their two children, ages 4 and 6.
The personal injury lawsuit contends that Millward has been publicly humiliated bythe "extreme and outrageous conduct" of the Murdocks.
Millward is represented by William Reinig Jr. of Kennewick.
The complaint cites seven causes of action: defamation; invasion of the right to privacy; wrongful discharge/breach of contract; negligence; both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress; and outrage.
"Defendants' conduct of false accusations against (Millward) amounts to defamation of character," the suit says. Millward "has experienced in the past, and will experience in the future, both mental and physical injuries, as a proximate result of the defamation."
By law, Millward can't specify a damage amount.
The lawsuit asks that the Murdocks be found liable for Millward's past and future pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and public humiliation. It also seeks special damages for lost earnings, decreased earning capacity, medical expenses and out-of-pocket expenses.
The Murdocks have not yet responded to the suit. Millward says in her lawsuit that the couple have reconciled and are again living together.
Michelle Murdock, 39, pleaded guilty Oct. 5 in Superior Court to a lesser charge in the conspiracy case. She admitted to conspiracy to attempt to obtain a prescription drug and was sentenced to 80 days in jail with credit for time served.
She was originally charged with first-degree conspiracy to murder her husband.
Millward claims that shortly after being hired as a full-time nanny in April, Michelle Murdock "made repeated remarks giving possible scenarios for her husband's death." Millward said she told Dave Murdock, who responded that "he suspected that his wife had a desire to kill him, because he had been monitoring her activities on her computer through a 'web-watcher' program," the lawsuit contends.
Millward said Dave Murdock instructed her to privately tape record her conversations with Michelle, but she refused. He then threatened that he could "always get another nanny," so under the threat of termination from employment she recorded a few hours of conversations with Michelle, the lawsuit says.
The tape reportedly was handed over to Dave Murdock.
But just weeks after going to police, Dave Murdock, 62, said he didn't believe his wife planned to kill him, which led prosecutors to reduce the charge based on what the husband planned to testify to in trial.
After Michelle Murdock's recent release from the Franklin County jail, sheriff's deputies were advised about a current protection order restricting her from going to her husband's home, according to a sheriff's office news release.
Judge Vic VanderSchoor had opted at sentencing not to continue an order barring Michelle Murdock from contacting her husband or kids. But a civil protection order initially sought by Dave Murdock after his wife's arrest still remained in effect.
Sheriff Richard Lathim said Friday that his office received a couple of calls in recent days that Michelle Murdock was in violation of the order. So when a deputy on patrol in west Pasco at 8:30 a.m. Friday saw her near Road 96 and Argent Road heading to the family's Red Roan Court home, he stopped the car and arrested her on the court-order violation, Lathim said.
Michelle Murdock again was booked into the jail, then released about an hour later when the sheriff's office got word that the civil protection order had been terminated.
Lathim blames the Franklin County Clerk's Office for not informing his staff of the dismissal "in a timely manner."
"We were not notified," he said. "Superior Court didn't issue those out until this morning, and so we had no knowledge of it and we did not receive it until about an hour after she was arrested."
According to Franklin County Clerk Mike Killian, lawyer Mark Kuffel sought to have the protection order dismissed on Tuesday at the request of his client, Dave Murdock. The documents were signed that day in Benton County by Court Commissioner Joseph Schneider, then sent via legal messenger to the Franklin County Clerk's Office.
Killian said his office received the paperwork Wednesday afternoon, and had them scanned and entered into an online court database within 24 hours. He acknowledged that the documents weren't sent downstairs to the sheriff's office until Friday morning, but said it's "kind of a gray area" because by law his office is required to have a protection order forwarded to law enforcement agencies within the next judicial day for service upon the respondent. However, the law doesn't address the timeliness of orders of termination, he said, adding that the sheriff's office has access to the online judicial database and could have checked there before arresting Michelle Murdock.
Killian said Kuffel could have avoided any delays and delivered the documents himself to the sheriff's office to have the order lifted. He also suggested that Michelle Murdock carry a copy of the terminated order, which she can get for free at the clerk's office.
As a part of Millward's lawsuit, Reinig is seeking an injunction to have police maintain and preserve all computer evidence in their custody from the criminal case.
Reinig also wants an order preventing the altering or destroying of "audio recording of conversations between Shalena Millward and Michelle Murdock." He said it is not known who has custody of those recordings, but that they are relevant to the civil action.
The motion regarding evidence is set for a hearing Oct. 25. The trial is scheduled for October 2011.