AUBURN — The estate of a woman murdered in 2007 by a fellow worker at a Lewiston call center is suing that company, claiming it failed to recognize her assailant's history of violence, especially against women.
The lawsuit, filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court, says Affiliated Computer Services Inc. should have known that Richard Dwyer posed a threat to women because he was on federal parole at the time he was hired. Dwyer had been released from prison only a few months when he was hired to work at the company's Lewiston office.
Dwyer was a "multiply-convicted felon, having previously been convicted of unlawful sexual contact and twice for armed robbery; (he) had had his federal parole revoked for a gross sexual assault," the civil complaint says. He had been found guilty of several other assaults on women, which were given as reasons for revocation of his federal parole.
ACS had a duty to protect its workers, mostly women, from someone with a criminal history of violence toward women, the suit says.
When he was hired, Dwyer "posed an immediate and foreseeable threat to the personal safety of women with whom he might come into" contact, the suit says.
If it didn't, the company should have had a pre-screening process in place to prevent someone with Dwyer's criminal record suggesting a "propensity for violence in general and violence toward women in particular" from working there, the suit says.
Dwyer was convicted of robbing, raping and murdering Donna Paradis, who was in her last term of pregnancy at the time of her slaying. Dwyer had approached her at their Lewiston Mall office on East Avenue where they worked on the same account. After repeated efforts to befriend her, Dwyer told her he'd arranged for her to buy a used car.
She withdrew cash from her credit union and met with Dwyer later that day on Oct. 23, 2007. Police said he strangled her and buried her body in a shallow grave behind the Promenade Mall on Lisbon Street.
The complaint says ACS was negligent in hiring Dwyer. It also claims ACS was negligent not to fire him or discipline him after another female worker complained before Paradis' murder that Dwyer had assaulted her.
In late 2006, Dwyer started harassing the other female worker and repeatedly changed work stations to be closer to her, the suit says. He wrote a sexually suggestive message to that woman, who complained to her supervisor. Her complaint was ignored, the suit says.
He sexually assaulted the woman on ACS property, when their offices were located in Bates Mill No. 2. The woman physically repelled Dwyer's attack, according to the suit.
She filed a complaint against Dwyer with ACS's human resources department. She was told later that nothing could be done about her complaint and was accused of lying about the assault, the suit says.
As a result of Dwyer's actions, Paradis' estate alleges ACS was negligent in its failure to supervise him and put him in a position "where he could and did" kill Paradis.
Paradis experienced conscious suffering when Dwyer killed her, the suit says. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maine determined that Paradis' strangulation didn't cause her to die instantly. Instead, she would have had several minutes of "intense conscious suffering" at the hands of Dwyer.
The estate is seeking judgment against ACS for the benefit of Paradis' two children, Jeannette Kontos and Sasha Paradis, who suffered emotional distress, loss of services, instructions, advice, counsel, parental training, care and guidance, assistance and protection of their mother as well as the loss of their mother's attention to their physical, moral and educational welfare.
The estate also incurred expenses for Paradis' funeral and other services related to her death.
The suit seeks punitive damages against ACS because "the negligent hiring, retention and supervision of Dwyer, resulting in the foreseeable, unreasonable risk of harm to its female employees was so outrageous that malice towards its female employees by ACS is implied," according to the complaint.
Contacted by phone Thursday, Chris Gilligan, a spokesman for ACS, said the company's legal staff had not seen the complaint and, for that reason, could not comment on it. The company has 21 days to respond to the complaint, a court clerk said.