Ewell v. Toney, No. 16-1009 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Nance shot and killed her husband, Timothy, in the shower. Four days later, Nance reported him missing. Fond du Lac detectives interviewed Timothy’s family, his new girlfriend, friends, and Nance’s sister, Ewell. They learned of the couple’s history of threats and violence. One witness had noticed that the shower curtain, liner, and hooks in the Nance bathroom had been replaced after Timothy disappeared. The detectives reviewed surveillance tapes from a local store, which showed Ewell and Nance buying new shower curtain liners and hooks the night Timothy went missing. Executing a search warrant at the Nance house, detectives seized “biological specimens,” a “projectile” from the bathtub pipes, and other evidence. Ewell refused to answer questions. Both sisters were arrested. A judge, relying on Ledger’s statement and affidavit, determined that probable cause existed to detain Ewell. She spent 12 days in custody before her release. Ewell filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. While her appeal of the dismissal of that case was pending. Ewell was convicted in state court of hiding a corpse, harboring or aiding a felony, and resisting or obstructing an officer. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. For purposes of qualified immunity, it would not have been plain to a reasonable officer that arresting and detaining Ewell under the circumstances would have been unlawful under the Fourth Amendment.