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Two women accuse Clay County Sheriff's deputy of abuse of authority

Posted at 7:07 PM, Oct 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-22 20:07:15-04

Two women have accused the Clay County Sheriff’s Department of invading their privacy and violating their rights.

In the lawsuit filed on Monday, the two plaintiffs name Clay County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Hunter, Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department and James Murray and Star Investigations, LLC.

The complaint covers two investigations done by Murray, a private investigator for more than 30 years.

According to the court documents, one woman said in 2012, someone hired Murray to investigate a domestic matter. She said Murray and Hunter demanded she answer questions about her sex life. She said Hunter identified himself as a Clay County Deputy. The suit alleges that Hunter abused his authority and he and Murray coerced the woman into giving a statement.

The suit also alleges a second woman was harassed and intimidated during a different case Murray was investigating in 2012. This case involved the death of Murray’s daughter. The woman’s ex-husband found the body in Texas. The death was ruled a suicide, however, the case has since been reopened and Murray said is now being investigated as a suspicious death.

Court documents indicate Hunter used his department cell phone to contact Murray and used the county’s computer system to investigate the case.

Murray said none of his actions or Hunter’s action violated any laws. He said they were doing their jobs and it was all handled appropriately.

“It's totally frivolous and the sad part is you can file these things,” he said. “The Sheriff's Department will have to answer to it, Matt Hunter, who is completely innocent, will have to answer to it and I will have to answer to it.”

The attorney for the two women said at issue is the violation of Missouri state law that prohibits law enforcement officials from using their position or resources for private investigations.

The lawsuit cites a 2012 complaint that one woman filed with the Clay County Sheriff’s Department. According to the court documents, the Department investigated and determined Hunter did abuse his authority and violated department policies. However, the suit states the Department didn’t issue any formal discipline.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department told 41 Action News, it has not yet received any documents related to this lawsuit.