Little Rock police deny mistreating slain girl's family
Sep. 11, 2018
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Little Rock police have closed an internal investigation into whether officers mistreated the family of a slain teen who disappeared in 2015 after finding "insufficient evidence."
Police sent an Aug. 28 letter to Laurie Jernigan, whose daughter Ebby Steppach was 18 when she went missing. The letter said the department can't prove that officers "were rude and unprofessional" to Jernigan at the beginning of a 2015 investigation into Steppach's disappearance, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .
Jernigan filed a complaint Feb. 12 against a captain, a lieutenant and a sergeant, none of whom are named in the department's notice last month.
Jernigan alleged the officers sent threatening texts, yelled at her during questioning and at one point told her she wouldn't be updated on the case anymore.
"They victimized us, on top of not looking for our daughter, telling us that she'd just show up," Jernigan said. "They were just waiting to see if she'd show up. They were so rude, hateful, mean-spirited, untruthful to me and my husband."
Police found Steppach's remains in a drainage pipe in May at Chalamont Park, the same park her abandoned car was found days after she was reported missing more than two years prior. The department declined to comment on the case, which is being investigated as a homicide.
Authorities have previously been criticized on a series of investigative missteps, including waiting for days to look into reports of Steppach's car being found, failure to fully explore reports of a decomposition smell near the drainage pipe and treating the teen's case for the first several months as if she was a runaway.
Jernigan said she waited to file the complaint until the case moved to another unit because she was afraid of retaliation. The case was originally placed with the major crimes unit before moving to the homicide squad and eventually the cold case division.
"It's a Catch-22," she said. "Do you try to expose what's happened to you? Does that mean that they're not going to follow up on our case? It was definitely before Ebby was found."
Jernigan said the family needs time to consider whether they will request a review of the decision that there wasn't enough evidence to determine police wrongdoing.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com