As part of $3M settlement, police deny responsibility in Vicosa sisters' deaths

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

As part of its $3 million settlement agreement in the deaths of two young sisters at the hands of their father, the York County Regional Police Department denied responsibility for the tragedy.

That stipulation was part of the agreement signed by a judge late Thursday as the girls’ mother, Marisa Vicosa, settled her claim that the department, by its inaction, failed to prevent the girls' deaths.

Giana Vicosa, 7, and her 6-year-old sister Aaminah were abducted by their father, former Baltimore County Police officer Robert Vicosa, near York in November 2021. He then killed the girls, his accomplice and himself while pursued by police in Maryland.

Aaminah and Giana Vicosa

Marisa Vicosa accused department leaders of putting her daughters in danger by not acting immediately on court orders and making other decisions that delayed responses to safely resolve the situation.

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The police department argued that officers and staff could not be held liable for Vicosa’s acts, according to documents in a petition seeking the settlement’s approval. The petition was filed by Marisa Vicosa’s attorney Wednesday. The department’s attorney responded to the petition Thursday with a filing that admitted a settlement had been reached and denied responsibility.

“(The department) denies any liability on its behalf or that of its agents for the tragic consequences of the violent and murderous acts of Robert Vicosa,” the filing states. “Respondent also denies that any asserted act or failure to act of respondent caused, or contributed to, the deaths of Giana Vicosa and Aaminah Vicosa.”

That filing uses York County Regional Police’s previous name, York Area Regional Police, because that was the name in use in 2021.

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Police Chief Tim Damon has not commented publicly on the settlement following multiple attempts to reach him.

Marisa Vicosa’s attorney, Harold Goodman, declined comment Friday but indicated he and his client may speak publicly in the near future.

Kyle King, chief administrator with the York County District Attorney’s Office, also declined to comment on the settlement.

However, King did note that the DA's office hired a consultant based on concerns raised by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office about the handling of the Vicosa case.

Marisa (Ayala) Vicosa, right, of Windsor Township, wipes away tears after releasing two doves in memory of her daughters Giana Vicosa, 7, and Aaminah Vicosa, 6, at Susquehanna Memorial Gardens in York Township, in this file photo from Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Vicosa and the police department reached the settlement agreement March 7. Her daughter’s estates will each receive $1.2 million on state-created danger claims, for a total of $2.4 million. Vicosa will receive $600,000 on a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

From the overall total, $1 million will be taken out for legal fees, the petition shows.

Goodman noted the $3 million would come from the police department’s insurance, and the amount is based on its maximum coverage.

The petition indicates that the police department is covered by policies with EMC Insurance Cos.

The settlement followed roughly 10 months of attorney negotiations and avoided potentially lengthy civil litigation, which Vicosa’s attorney estimated could have taken years to resolve. As part of the agreement, she will end her legal claims regarding the situation.

Marisa and Robert Vicosa were estranged and living separately when Robert allegedly invited her back to the family’s home in Windsor Township to celebrate her birthday with the children on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.

Later that night, Robert allegedly took Marisa captive with help from his alleged accomplice, Tia Bynum, also a Baltimore County cop. Marisa was bound and abused, and her life and the lives of her daughters were threatened, according to details in the petition.

Robert Vicosa, Tia Bynum

By that Sunday, Marisa convinced Robert to let her to return to her place to pick up some items. He allegedly threatened her again if she went to police, but Marisa was able to seek help and that afternoon reported the situation to the police department.

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A corporal who took the report wanted to respond immediately, but he had to run a plan up the chain of command through Lt. Kenneth Schollenberger and Damon, who weren’t on duty that day, according to the petition.

The petition alleges Damon refused to order immediate action.

Police Chief Tim Damon talks about the newly merged York County Regional Police Department at their building on Oak Street in York Township, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Robert Vicosa, meanwhile, had left his house with the children about 15 minutes after Marisa was released, according to documents included with the petition. The documents say security cameras at the house showed him leaving. It wasn't clear where they went next.

As that Sunday progressed into night, Marisa Vicosa sought and received an emergency protection from abuse order. Investigators also obtained a search warrant for the house.

The plan to serve the protection order and the warrant that night were halted, however, as the petition shows Chief Damon allegedly decided not to enforce the order.

He instead wanted to wait until that Monday morning, figuring the girls would be out of the house and on their way to school. He didn’t know, apparently, that they were home-schooled, according to the petition.

Police went to the house that afternoon and found it empty.

Marisa filed a private criminal complaint against Damon that day.

Police caught up to Robert Vicosa, Bynum and the girls a few days later after he allegedly left a trail of thefts and carjackings in the area.

Pennsylvania State Police spotted him in a stolen car in Waynesboro that Thursday, Nov. 18.

As he crossed into Maryland, police there pursued him until he crashed into a culvert. He then shot Bynum, his children and himself, the petition shows.

Marisa Vicosa’s private complaint against Damon remained active after the tragedy as the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office investigated the allegations.

She withdrew it in March 2022, and her attorney began settlement negotiations with the department a month later.

The attorney general’s office, meanwhile, sent a letter to the district attorney’s office following its investigation. It detailed “major concerns with certain lapses and decisions” involved in the case, the petition shows.

Officials from the AG's office declined to provide the letter to The York Dispatch.

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Though he couldn’t comment on the settlement, King spoke briefly Friday on the concerns raised by the attorney general’s office.

He said the district attorney’s office has since engaged a consultant, and they’re working with police and court partners.

“That work is actively ongoing,” he said.

He said it’s premature to comment further on details.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.