Lawsuit reveals new details of Exeter woman’s slaying at Timberland

This article was originally published on www.seacoastonline.com.
Alexander LaCasse Portsmouth Herald
Published 11:10 a.m. ET Apr. 14, 2021

CONCORD – The family of the Timberland marketing director who was killed at the
company’s Stratham headquarters last year has filed a federal lawsuit against the company
that employed the security guard charged with her murder.

Michael Cormier, husband of the late Catherine “Cassie” Heppner, filed suit in New
Hampshire District Court against the Swedish global security firm Securitas Security
Services.

The suit claims Securitas negligently hired Robert Pavao, 21, of Berwick, despite alleged “red
flags” about his psychological state. The firm was contracted to provide security guards for
Timberland’s offices.

What do prosecutors say about the day Cassie Heppner died?

Police allege Pavao was on duty Feb. 9, 2020, when he allegedly stabbed Heppner, who went
into work on a Sunday to assemble several products for an upcoming business trip. She was
46 and a mother.

‘She had biggest heart’: Exeter mourns woman killed at Timberland
Pavao has pleaded not guilty to first-degree and second-degree murder charges in
Rockingham Superior Court and is currently behind bars awaiting trial.

According to the first-degree murder indictment, Pavao knowingly caused the death of
Heppner by stabbing her “before, after, and/or while engaged in the commission of, or while
attempting to commit felonious sexual assault.”

What is the case against Securitas Security Services?

The 12-count lawsuit requests a jury trial, and compensation for damages and costs endured
by Heppner’s estate, as well as her lost earning power due to her death.

“Securitas is on notice because they should’ve been doing a heckuva lot more because this
guy was hired with no screening,” said Mark Abramson, one of Cormier’s attorneys, of
Abramson, Brown & Dugan.

According to the lawsuit, the contract between Timberland and Securitas required all
security guards assigned to the post “would be fully trained” and “undergo drug testing”
performed by a certified testing lab.

The suit alleges Securitas did not contact any of the personal references for Pavao when they
hired him in 2019, nor did the company have him take a drug test certified by a lab.
The suit claims Pavao worked 57 unsupervised shifts at Timberland from Oct. 5, 2019,
through Feb. 8, 2020, and he was previously observed by his colleague as being “antisocial”
and demonstrating “significant anxiety.”

Before the murder, while Pavao was supervised by another security guard, the lawsuit states
Pavao asked him if Timberland’s security cameras possessed audio recording capability.
When the security guard reportedly claimed he did not know, Pavao allegedly responded by
saying, “If they see me on the camera, they will see me screaming.”

“The superior guard considered Mr. Pavao’s statement about screaming to mean that Mr.
Pavao had had a breakdown while at work and believed the comment was a serious red flag,
but he did not report it to anyone else,” the suit reads. “The superior guard believed that
Pavao had smoked marijuana at work, and that he used other drugs like mushrooms and
LSD. He did not report these concerns to anyone.”

The suit notes that Securitas’ own handbook states the use of substances on the clock is
grounds for dismissal and that employees should report anything that looks mildly
suspicious. It also states the contract with Timberland states Securitas will screen all security
guards and not assign anyone to Timberland who posed “a significant risk to the health and
safety of others” or who exhibited “violent or physically abusive behavior.”

New details of Cassie Heppner’s murder alleged in lawsuit

The lawsuit also contains new details surrounding Heppner’s murder, allegedly at the hands
of Pavao, who is described in the complaint as having, “endured a brutal childhood and was
abandoned by his birth parents as a young boy.” The suit goes on to claim Pavao “regularly
used drugs during high school and afterwards.”

“(Pavao’s) adolescence was marked by learning disabilities, apparent social delays, a
complicated sexual identity, and intense anger towards his birth mother, with whom he had
no contact,” the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, at approximately 3:20 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2020, Pavao is seen on security
footage using a key issued to him to open a locked door for Heppner.

The lawsuit states Pavao entered the area where Heppner was, and he was not seen again on
the security camera until emerging from the storage room at approximately 3:42 p.m. with
blood visible on his hand.
Pavao allegedly called his mother at approximately 4:13 to say, “he hurt someone at work,”
before calling 911 at approximately 4:25 p.m., according to the lawsuit.
When first responders arrived, Pavao is allegedly again seen on security footage directing
them to a room where he said a person was stabbed, according to the lawsuit.
The suit then states, Pavao was asked if he stabbed the person and allegedly replied, “I don’t
know.”
None of the facts alleged in the lawsuit have been made public in Pavao’s criminal case, and
the affidavit, which summarizes law enforcement’s alleged facts of the case, remains sealed.
Additionally, the lawsuit outlines numerous instances where security guards Securitas hired
committed violent felonies dating back to 2004, most notably in Charlottesville, Virginia
when Securitas guard James Fields Jr. drove a car into a crowd of anti-white supremacist
protesters, killing one in 2017.

The suit also named Cadient as a defendant. The North Carolina company was used by
Securitas to provide an online assessment to help the company screen competent candidates
for security guard positions. Pavao passed the screening with no concerning qualities or red
flags. The company has filed a motion to dismiss Cormier’s lawsuit.

What is response from Securitas about lawsuit and Robert Pavao?

Securitas has yet to respond to the lawsuit in court. A representative of the company did not
respond to an email seeking comment.

In a statement after the murder, the company said “Securitas USA is deeply saddened by the
events that took place in Stratham, N.H. The company is cooperating fully with New
Hampshire law enforcement officials. Because the matter is an ongoing criminal
investigation, the company is not able to comment further.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.seacoastonline.com/story/news/crime/2021/04/14/timberland-slaying-stratham-nh-exeter-sec
uritas-cassie-hepner-robert-pavao/7212602002/ 2/4

4/15/2021 Lawsuit reveals new
details of Exeter woman’s slaying at Timberland

New details of Cassie Heppner’s murder alleged in lawsuit
The lawsuit also contains new details surrounding Heppner’s murder, allegedly at the hands of
Pavao, who is described in the complaint as having, “endured a brutal childhood and was abandoned
by his birth parents as a young boy.” The suit goes on to claim Pavao “regularly used drugs during
high school and afterwards.”
“(Pavao’s) adolescence was marked by learning disabilities, apparent social delays, a complicated
sexual identity, and intense anger towards his birth mother, with whom he had no contact,” the
lawsuit states.
According to the suit, at approximately 3:20 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2020, Pavao is seen on security
footage using a key issued to him to open a locked door for Heppner.
The lawsuit states Pavao entered the area where Heppner was, and he was not seen again on the
security camera until emerging from the storage room at approximately 3:42 p.m. with blood visible
on his hand.
Pavao allegedly called his mother at approximately 4:13 to say, “he hurt someone at work,” before
calling 911 at approximately 4:25 p.m., according to the lawsuit.
When first responders arrived, Pavao is allegedly again seen on security footage directing them to
a room where he said a person was stabbed, according to the lawsuit.
The suit then states, Pavao was asked if he stabbed the person and allegedly replied, “I don’t
know.”
None of the facts alleged in the lawsuit have been made public in Pavao’s criminal case, and the
affidavit, which summarizes law enforcement’s alleged facts of the case, remains sealed.
Additionally, the lawsuit outlines numerous instances where security guards Securitas hired
committed violent felonies dating back to 2004, most notably in Charlottesville, Virginia when
Securitas guard James Fields Jr. drove a car into a crowd of anti-white supremacist protesters,
killing one in 2017.
The suit also named Cadient as a defendant. The North Carolina company was used by Securitas to
provide an online assessment to help the company screen competent candidates for security guard
positions. Pavao passed the screening with no concerning qualities or red flags. The company has
filed a motion to dismiss Cormier’s lawsuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.seacoastonline.com/story/news/crime/2021/04/14/timberland-slaying-stratham-nh-exeter-sec
uritas-cassie-hepner-robert-pavao/7212602002/ 3/4

4/15/2021 Lawsuit reveals new
details of Exeter woman’s slaying at Timberland
https://www.seacoastonline.com/story/news/crime/2021/04/14/timberland-slaying-stratham-nh-exeter-sec
uritas-cassie-hepner-robert-pavao/7212602002/ 4/4
What is response from Securitas about lawsuit and Robert Pavao?
Securitas has yet to respond to the lawsuit in court. A representative of the company did not
respond to an email seeking comment.
In a statement after the murder, the company said “Securitas USA is deeply saddened by the events
that took place in Stratham, N.H. The company is cooperating fully with New Hampshire law
enforcement officials. Because the matter is an ongoing criminal
investigation, the company is not able to comment further.”

Racial Disparities in Health Care

A recent New York Times article written by Roni Caryn Rabin discusses Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith’s goals of addressing racial gaps in health care. Dr. Nunez-Smith is a practicing internist and scientist. She directs several research centers and acts as an associate professor of internal medicine, public health management at Yale University. She has been appointed by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lead a new federal task force, an act introduced by Senator and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris aimed to combat racial and ethnic disparities in our nation’s COVID-19 response.

Dr. Nunez-Smith grew up in the United States Virgin Islands, where she saw the harmful repercussions that limited health care has on a community. Racial health disparities, fueled by underlying social and economic inequalities, have been made even more distinct by the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates that Black, Latino, and Native Americans are infected with COVID-19 and/or hospitalized at disproportionately higher rates than white Americans. Additionally, the death rate of these groups is nearly three times higher. Dr. Nunez-Smith emphasizes:

We cannot overstate the disproportionate impact.”

There are many contributing factors for these numbers including living in crowded households, the ability to work from home, and underlying health problems due to limited access to medical care, that increase the risk of severe COVID-19. Dr. Nunez-Smith states:

What’s needed to ensure equity in the recovery is not limited to health and health care. We have to have conversations about housing stability and food security and educational equity, and pathways to economic opportunities and promise. There are people whose jobs require them to leave their homes, and if we don’t have a message to them, that’s our failure.”

JAMA Network Open recently published a study that found Black patients were more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than White patients. However, they had a lower mortality rate after hospitalization. Researchers suggest that neighborhood characteristics may explain the disproportionately high out-of-hospital COVID-19 mortality rates among Black individuals. They explain:

This may be because of pervasive social inequalities that increase the difficulty in implementing social distancing in Black and Hispanic communities. Black and Hispanic patients are associated with a lower neighborhood SES and are more likely to work in occupations that are not amenable to working remotely compared with White patients.”

These findings support the notion that Black and Hispanic populations are not inherently more susceptible to having poor COVID-19 outcomes than other groups. Existing structural determinants including housing inequality, access to care, employment, and poverty that are more pervasive in Black and Hispanic communities are likely causes of COVID-19 ethnic disparities. Dr. Gbenga Ogedegbe, the director of the division of health and behavior at New York University’s Grossman school of Medicine reviewed these findings and states:

We hear this all the time — ‘Blacks are more susceptible.’ It is all about the exposure. It is all about where people live. It has nothing to do with genes.”

Another article published in JAMA Network Open presents a data analysis which demonstrates the inequitable allocation of COVID-19 testing relative to the disease burden between Black and White communities in St. Louis, MO. They suggest that testing needs to be increased relative to the disease burden in order to ensure that not just the most symptomatic cases are identified in an area. Researchers opine the reasons for undertesting in certain communities are likely existing disparities in the health care infrastructure, access to health care, and mistrust of the health care system, which all stem from structural racism within the system itself.

Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine speaks on Dr. Nunez-Smith’s plan to combat the racial disparities in COVID-19 response in the United States. He states:

Yes, it will be hard, and we will need to take iterative steps, but begin is exactly what we should do, and considering the link between poor health, poor education, poor housing and poverty, a case can be made to target economic development in the most vulnerable communities as an important first step.”

Racial gaps in the United States health care system are prevalent and precipitate the disparity of the COVID-19 response. The new federal task force aims to address the underlying structural issues within the system to promote health care equity among all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan believe everyone is entitled to adequate health care. If you or someone you know has been harmed as a result of medical malpractice, contact us today

Colorectal Cancer Screening

A recent proposal by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that adults should start screening for colorectal cancer routinely at age 45, instead of waiting until age 50.  The task force is an independent group of experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services. While it still must be finalized, its guidance on screening and preventative care services reflects a rise in higher rates of colon and rectal cancer in generations born since 1950, The New York Times states. According to a study by the American Cancer Society, 12% of the 147,950 colorectal cancers that will be diagnosed this year will be found in adults under the age of 50; that is over 18,000 cases.

A group disproportionately affected is African Americans, who are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer, and 40% more likely to die from it that most other groups. This is due to a combination of complex reasons, including risk factors, health care access, and socioeconomic status.

An article published in JAMA Network examined the incidence rates of colorectal cancer in 1 year increments, focusing on the transition between ages 49 and 50 years of age. Researchers studied 165,160 patients from a variety of demographic backgrounds and geographical regions from 2000-2005. They observed the colorectal cancer incidence rates in 1-year age increments (30-60 years) in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results 18 registries (STEER 18). They found an incidence rate increase of 46.1% from 49 to 50 years of age. A total of 92.9% of the cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed at 50 years of age were invasive (beyond situ stage).

The steep incidence increases from 49 to 50 years of age are consistent with preexisting colorectal cancers diagnosed via screening uptake. These findings suggest the presence of a large undetected preclinical case burden in patients younger than 50 years old that is not observed in the STEER 18.

These results support the recommendation to begin screenings earlier. The panel also emphasized that health care providers should especially encourage black men and women to be screened at 45 due to high rates of disease and higher death rates in the African American community.  Dr. Kimmi Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Institute in Boston comments “Lives will be saved. We will be preventing cancers in young people, catching them at an earlier stage when they are more likely to be curable, and hopefully improving survival rates.”

While some physicians are vigilant, some younger patients feel their complaints are dismissed by doctors. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance states 81% of young adults with colorectal cancer said they experienced at least three symptoms of cancer before getting diagnosed. Additionally, more than half were misdiagnosed with hemorrhoids, anemia, IBS, or mental health problems. Abramson, Brown & Dugan is committed to advocating on behalf of people who have not received adequate preventative care, diagnosis, or treatment by health care professionals. If you or someone you know has been affected by malpractice, contact us today.

Epidurals and Autism

A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics examines the association between epidural analgesia during labor and the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in offspring. Researchers looked at a multiethnic population-based clinical birth cohort of 147,895 children who were delivered vaginally between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2015. Children were followed up to the age of 1 year or until: clinical diagnosis of ASD, last date of health plan enrollment, death, or the end of the study. Autism spectrum disorders were diagnosed in 1.9% of the children delivered using epidural analgesia versus 1.3% of the children delivered vaginally without it. After adjusting for potential cofounders, this is a 37% relative increase in risk which is significant. The results of this study suggest that maternal labor epidural analgesia (LEA) may be associated with increased risk for children developing ASD.

While further research is warranted to confirm the study findings, the potential implications are significant. Epidural analgesia is a central neve block technique achieved by injecting a local anesthetic close to the nerves that transmit pain. This is done so through a catheter in the lower back that continuously delivers medication throughout labor. Epidurals are a widely accepted practice used to ease the pain of childbirth for women. An article published in Stanford Medicine examined 17 million deliveries nationwide from 2009-2014, which found that epidurals or other spinal anesthesia were used in 71% of births, a 10% increase from 2008.

The growing numbers of epidural analgesia during birth is concerning given the findings of Chunyuan Qiu, MD, MS, Jane C. Lin, MS, and Jiaxiao M. Shi, PhD in JAMA Pediatrics. While there are many suspected links, there is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder. If epidurals do indeed increase the risk of a child developing ASD, it would impact many women’s decision regarding pain management during childbirth. Abramson, Brown & Dugan specialize in medical malpractice law and have extensive experience in birth injury related cases. If you or someone you know has been affected by medical malpractice, contact us today.

Blood Testing for Brain Damage

A recent article published in Imperial College London News discusses the ongoing research and development of a blood test prototype for brain damage in newborns who experienced oxygen deprivation during birth. Imperial College London, in collaboration with groups in India, Italy, and America conducted their research in Indian hospitals and published the findings in Scientific Reports.

Oxygen deprivation can occur for a variety of reasons including a lack of oxygen in the mother’s blood, infection, umbilical cord issues, birth canal delays, placental separation, and delivery trauma. Oxygen deprivation can lead to brain damage, which develops over hours to months after birth. Depending on what part of the brain is affected, this can result in a number of different neurological including cerebral palsy, erb’s palsy, epilepsy, and others.

The researchers conducted their preliminary study using 45 babies that experienced oxygen deprivation at birth. The babies had their blood taken within six hours of birth, and then again 18 months later. It was sequenced to examine any differences in gene expression between the babies who had developed neurodisabilities and those who did not.

In total, researches found 855 genes that were expressed differently between the two groups, two of which were significantly different. Lead author Dr. Paolo Montaldo hopes that examining these two genes could help scientists better understand the causes of neurodisabilities following oxygen deprivation and subsequently, how to disrupt them. Identifying babies most at risk for developing a neurological condition would also allow for targeted early interventions for improved outcomes. The team of researchers plans to expand their blood testing study to a larger number of babies to gather more insight.

The potential benefits of early diagnosis are endless. However, even with a confirmed diagnosis and early intervention, the effects of brain damage due to oxygen deprivation can cause serious lifelong neurological, developmental, physical, behavioral, and psychological issues. The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan are committed to helping those who have been negatively impacted by physician error. All of our attorneys are experienced in the field of medical malpractice; Kevin Dugan has a particular concentration in birth injury cases, including medical errors in labor and delivery resulting in newborn brain injury and cerebral palsy. If you are seeking support or would like to discuss a potential case, contact us today.

 

Cardiovascular Disease in Women

An article written by Shiva R. Mishra, MPH, Hsin Chung, PhD, and Michael Waller, PhD published in JAMA Network discusses the association between reproductive life span and the incident of nonfatal cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women. CVD is a group of diseases involving the heart or blood vessels, which includes hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart attacks, heart failure, heart valve problems, and abnormal heart rhythms. Early menarche and early menopause are known risk factors for CVD in women. Researchers looked at 12 studies, analyzing a total of 307,855 women in the International Collaboration for a Life Course Approach to Reproductive Health and Chronic Disease Events (InterLACE) to investigate the correlation between reproductive life span in addition to the age at menarche and menopause.

From the women surveyed, the mean age at menarche was 13, the mean reproductive life span was 37.2, and the mean age at menopause was 50.2. They found that women with very short (<30) reproductive life spans were at 1.71 times higher risk of incident CVD events than women with reproductive life spans of 36-38 years. Women who had had both short reproductive life spans (<33) and early menarche (age <11 years) had the highest risk of CVD compared with the median menarche age and reproductive life span length.

A study lead by Saraschandra Vallabhojosyula published in Circulation: Heart Failure looked at sex disparities in the management and outcomes acute myocardial infarction-cardiogenic shock (AMI-CS) in the young. A total of 90,648 AMI-CS admissions between the ages of 18 and 55, during 2000 to 2017 were reviewed; 26% of which were women. They found that in young AMI-CS admissions, women were treated less aggressively. Women received less frequent coronary angiography than men (73% versus 78.7%), less early coronary angiography (49.2% versus 54.1%) less percutaneous coronary intervention (59.2% versus 64%), and less mechanical circulatory support (50.3% versus 59.2%). Subsequently, female sex was an independent predictor of in-hospital mortality (23% in women versus 21.7% in men).

The presentation of CVD looks different in men and women; despite the impact of CVD on women, awareness and education remain low. Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Lili Barouch, MD explains “Women are much more likely to have atypical heart attack symptoms. While the classical symptoms, such as chest pains, apply to both men and women, women are much more likely to get less common symptoms such as indigestion, shortness of breath, and back pain, sometimes even in the absence of obvious chest discomfort”

Hanna Gaggin, MD, MPH and Andrew Oseran, MD, MBA wrote an article for Harvard Health Publishing regarding the gender differences in cardiovascular disease. A recent study based on over two million patients found that women were less likely to be prescribed aspirin, statins, and certain blood pressure medications compared to men. These types of medications are commonly used to prevent CVD or its progression. A general lack of awareness of CVD in women may lead to doctors missing heart attacks in women or delaying their diagnosis.

Regardless of your sex, it is your doctor’s responsibility to provide adequate prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to protect your cardiovascular health. Abramson, Brown & Dugan is committed to advocating for people who have been negatively impacted by medical malpractice. If you or someone you know has been harmed due to medical error, contact us today.