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$750,000 Settlement for MI Man Wrongfully Jailed for Murder of Girlfriend's Infant Son

by Joe Watson

Matthew Ditzhazy, who was acquitted of charges that he murdered his girlfriend’s 19-month-old son, reached a $750,000 settlement agreement in July 2008 with the city of Lincoln Park, Mich., near Detroit, where he spent a year and a half in jail.

Three adults were in the house on January 28, 2005, when Connie Nelson, Ditzhazy’s girlfriend, found her son dead, including Jeremy Bartl, a friend and coworker of Ditzhazy. However, when police were called to Nelson’s home to investigate, Lincoln Park Det. William Santangelo questioned only Ditzhazy. 

Santangelo testified at Ditzhazy’s December 2006 trial that he interviewed Ditzhazy and closed his investigation once he secured a confession. Ditzhazy, however, had previously written a statement that was reportedly not incriminating, and no subsequent written statement was ever obtained from Ditzhazy following the supposed confession, nor was the alleged confession recorded. According to Ditzhazy, the only things consistent about the testimony from several Lincoln Park officers regarding the alleged confession were their inconsistencies.

Ben Gonek, Ditzhazy’s attorney, sought damages for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and violations of Ditzhazy’s 4th and 14th Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable search and seizure, due process and equal protection. Santangelo and the City of Lincoln Park denied all allegations, but settled with Ditzhazy prior to a civil trial. Judge George Caram Steeh of the U.S. District Court in Detroit presided. See: Ditzhazy v. Santangelo,  U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:07-CV-10512.

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Related legal case

Ditzhazy v. Santangelo