Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A Beverly Hills Police sergeant can take to trial his lawsuits alleging he was harassed and denied promotions after he reported that a colleague removed a sheet covering Whitney Houston’s body the night she died at a hotel in 2012, a judge ruled.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon denied a motion by attorneys for the city of Beverly Hills to dismiss Sgt. Brian Weir’s two lawsuits. In his April 6 ruling, the judge said there were multiple triable issues, including “how the sheet was disturbed on a deceased body” and whether the plaintiff had a reasonable belief that a law was violated.

Weir first sued the city in March 2014, alleging he suffered a backlash within the department for reporting Sgt. Terry Nutall’s alleged actions the night Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 11, 2012. Weir says he was removed from his positions with the SWAT and K-9 teams and denied promotions. He also claims he lost overtime opportunities, was denied training and was ostracized and harassed within the department.

In a second complaint brought in December 2014, he claims he suffered additional retaliation.

Houston was found submerged in a bathtub in her hotel room on the eve of the Grammy Awards. The coroner’s office concluded the 48-year-old entertainer drowned accidentally, with heart disease and cocaine use listed as contributing factors.

Weir’s original suit alleges that Nutall knelt beside and leaned over Houston, removed the sheet covering her body and made remarks  “to the effect and substance that (Houston) looked attractive for a woman (of) her age and current state.”

Attorneys for the city have denied any wrongdoing on the part of Nutall, who is now a lieutenant.

Nutall acknowledges he lifted part of the covering on the singer’s body, but says he limited it to the portion closest to her ankles.

“It was reported to me that the skin on Ms. Houston’s legs and wrists had peeled back while the paramedics carried her body from the bathroom to the living area of her hotel room,” Nutall says in a sworn declaration. “This raised questions as to why Ms. Houston would voluntarily place herself in and remain in water that was so scaldingly hot that it would begin to peel her skin away.”

Nutall says he was doing his job in examining Houston’s lower body.

“To investigate the circumstances surrounding her death were part of my duties as a detective sergeant, particularly since I was the only detective sergeant on the scene,” Nutall says.

Weir’s lawyer, Christopher Brizzolara, said his client was on patrol that night and was called to assist the first two officers to arrive. He said Nutall, then a forgery detective, had no business being there.

Brizzolara said it is unlawful to disturb or move a decedent’s body without the coroner’s permission. He said taking the sheet from Houston’s body was just as wrong as it would have been to take off a piece of clothing had she been attired at the time of her death.

Weir was on a fast ascent within the department’s promotional ladder before he reported Nutall’s alleged misconduct, Brizzolara said.

Nutall’s alleged actions violated state or federal statutes that forbid disturbing or moving the body of a decedent without permission of the coroner and also presented potential DNA contamination issues, the original lawsuit states.

Trial of the consolidated lawsuits is scheduled May 10.

—City News Service

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