NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – The woman who authorities said was abducted from her home, chained up by her neighbor in his basement, and sexually assaulted has filed a lawsuit against the Niagara Falls Police Department and Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.
The incident began in the early morning hours of June 9th, 2019, at either 12:48 or 12:58 a.m. according to the victim, when she received a knock at her door from her attacker. Several hours later, police would enter the home of their suspect, Michael Ciskiewic, to find the woman. They brought her outside to safety.
“He attacked her. There was a pretty big fight,” Niagara Falls Detective Captain Kelly Rizzo said of the incident at a press conference the next day. “She’s pretty tough. She fought back. She made it a point to let us know how much she fought back and for what distance of the incident that she fought back.”
Now, that same woman who police spoke so highly of is suing the department and sheriff’s office. The City of Niagara Falls, Niagara County, and former Sheriff James Voutour are also named as defendants.
The complaint says police, “did not respond to the scene of the crime for more than 20 minutes and, although there was physical evidence of the assault as well as neighborhood witnesses, the investigation was discontinued soon thereafter without having located the plaintiff.”
“(T)he incident and resultant injuries and damages were caused by the defendants in failing and omitting to promptly respond to the 911 report of the incident; in failing and omitting to conduct a proper and adequate investigation; in failing and omitting to properly and adequately consider and follow up on evidence they became aware of; in abandoning the investigation into the plaintiff’s assault prematurely,” it continued.
As a result, the woman, “was subjected to physical and sexual assault and remained chained in the basement of the (suspect’s house) for hours until she was finally found and released, and sustained bodily injuries…” the complaint claimed.
A deposition the victim gave in December 2019 suggests there were plenty of people who either saw or heard the initial attack. She specifically spoke about her next door neighbor.
“From what I was told, he had seen everything and tried to intervene,” the woman said. “But when he did, Mike had turned a gun on him and threatened him with his life if he didn’t go back in his house. So, from what I was told, he returned to his house and woke his father, as well as calling the cops.”
“I was told there was two other neighbors on the block that had heard me screaming and called as well,” she added.
“As well as one of the neighbors a block away heard me screaming and was outside at the time,” she continued. “And he came in the house and told his wife to call 911.”
Niagara Falls city and police officials declined comment through a city spokesperson, citing active litigation.
As for the county defendants, “Niagara County does not comment on pending litigation,” said county attorney Claude Joerg.
However, police spoke about the crime in the days during and after it occurred.
“The agency got a call around one o’clock that night,” Rizzo said during the June 10th press conference. “We had a standoff going on on the other side of town. Most of our office was tied up there.”
So, Rizzo said, New York State Police troopers and sheriff’s deputies responded to the woman’s home, along with a few Niagara Falls officers.
“We apparently saw some blood in front of the house, and they saw the broken glass. There was nobody around. There was nobody home. They really didn’t know what had happened at that time,” he added.
Rizzo said the scene was processed. The victim’s deposition transcript suggests police then eventually left the home.
She says her attacker, “brought up the fact that the cops were not at my house. He had waited for them to leave to bring me upstairs,” which is where she says she was raped.
According to Rizzo’s account, after the scene was processed, later that morning, the victim’s family reported her missing. So, they combed the neighborhood. One officer used a bloodhound to track blood to Ciskiewic’s house. That’s when they stormed inside to get her out.
Ciskiewic was later taken into custody, and indicted on charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree assault, first-degree rape, first-degree criminal sexual act, predatory sexual assault, two counts of first-degree burglary, and two counts of first-degree burglary as a sexually motivated felony. He ended up pleading guilty to a single count of predatory sexual assault. After a failed attempt to withdraw his guilty plea, he is awaiting sentencing.
An attorney for the victim declined to comment on the lawsuit. Lawyers for all of the defendants named in the suit have asked a judge to dismiss the case. A hearing on the matter is scheduled to take place in October.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.