Model's mystery: Police response faulted in motel death

In the wake of the mysterious death of a down-on-her-luck former supermodel, authorities are claiming that they handled her death according to protocol, but questions remain about whether the death scene should have been investigated as a potential crime scene– and why Charlottesville Police never notified next of kin.

"They treated her like a dead dog on the side of the road," says Federico Pignatelli, a long-time friend of Linda Doig, whose tragic life and death were the subject of the Hook's January 5 cover story.

Charlottesville Police claim they tried to call Doig's daughter, but the daughter disputes that account.

"If they'd left a message on my phone telling me it was about my mom, I would have called back immediately," says daughter Ashley Richards, adding that she didn't see any unknown numbers on her phone in the days after his mother's death.

To Pignatelli, a well-known California-based photography studio-owner and businessman, the lack of notification is just one painful part of police inaction. More ominously, he asserts, was a failure to investigate, particularly with the death scene presence of an alleged serial abuser and control freak.

Pignatelli says the presence of allegedly abusive boyfriend Carey Hicks should have launched a serious investigation. Instead, as Police acknowledge, they concluded– and they say they have the medical examiner's report to back it– that death resulted from the 51-year-old woman's heavy drinking rather than anything sinister.

"She had broken ribs and blood in her lungs," says the outraged Pignatelli, citing injuries for which Doig was allegedly treated about two weeks before her death, and which he believes were inflicted by Hicks. A reporter photographed Doig one week before death with a large bruise on her cheek– something she attributed to a fall. The reporter's recent repeated attempts to reach Hicks, a 47-year-old unemployed carpenter, have been unsuccessful.

As detailed in the story, "Broken beauty: The lofty life and tragic death of Linda Doig," the woman Madison Avenue knew as "Leigh Richards" soared to modeling fame in the late 1970s and became the public face for some of the top brands of the day. However, friends say that a serious back injury in 1992 helped push Doig into a drinking problem; and after moving to Albemarle County in 2005, she became involved with Hicks– a relationship, Pignatelli asserts, that only exacerbated her woes.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Albemarle and Charlottesville police have been summoned on numerous occasions to quell altercations between the two. Three times since June, Hicks, who has a history of violence against women, violated a court order to stay away from the Stone Creek Village apartment complex where Doig lived, and an August incident nearly turned deadly when Doig stabbed Hicks, she claimed, in self-defense.

Most recently, according to numerous witnesses, Charlottesville police were summoned to Lee Park on November 21 for an incident involving the two. Less than a week after the city's November 30 clear-out of the Occupy Charlottesville protesters, Doig would be dead.

So what did happen in the wee hours of December 5 in room 115 of the Emmet Street Econo Lodge?

"They didn't find anything suspicious at the scene," says Charlottesville Police Lt. Gary Pleasants, who describes what police encountered when they arrived around 3:45am on December 5.

"It appeared she was preparing the bath when she passed away," says Pleasants, revealing that Doig was found disrobed and lying in an empty tub. There were no signs of violence in either the bathroom or motel bedroom, Pleasants says.

According to Pleasants, both Hicks and Doig had been drinking. Hicks told police Doig had gone into the bathroom around 9pm, and he'd gone to sleep. When he awoke, more than six hours later, he told police, he discovered her body and sought help.

That account is at least partially confirmed by the 911 call that followed his appearance at the motel office.

Placed at 3:36am by a female clerk at the Econo Lodge, the recording was obtained by the Hook in a Freedom of Information request.

"A guy just walked up to the window and asked to call a rescue squad for room 115," the motel clerk calmly tells the emergency operator. The clerk gives no indication of the man's demeanor or whether he indicated anything urgent.

"He just said it," says the clerk, "and walked off."

The alert 911 operator, Margaret Bamford, offers an extra precaution.

"I'm probably going to send P.D. up there too," says Bamford, "because we don't know exactly what's going on."

Five minutes later, at 3:41am, an ambulance arrives. At 3:46am, just three minutes after police arrive, the would-be rescuers declare "priority black"– the emergency code for death.

According to call center records, at least five Charlottesville officers responded, and the last two appear to have remained until shortly before 7am, about three hours total. Pleasants says police were prepared to conduct a full investigation if circumstances warranted.

Legal analyst David Heilberg says police must have made a judgment call.

"I don't know how much physical evidence there was," says Heilberg. "Knowing her self-destructive background," he notes, "human nature is you're not going to work that one as hard."

Doig's friends and family, however, say that Hicks' history of physical abuse and his presence at the motel should have been evidence enough.

"They had a duty to investigate what happened here," says attorney Richard Armstrong. "It's what the taxpayers pay for."

Armstrong says an investigation should include interviews with loved ones and any potential witnesses. That would mean interviewing residents of surrounding motel rooms and friends and family such as Pignatelli and Doig's daughter, Ashley Richards.

Pleasants concedes, however, that there's nothing in the record about canvassing other motel guests. And even a month after Doig's death, none of Doig's friends or family have been interviewed by Charlottesville Police. In fact, Pignatelli says, if it weren't for the actions of another friend, he and Doig's daughter might still be searching.

On December 14, Doig's friend Rusty Bracho had his bags packed and was preparing to fly from his home in California to Charlottesville to search for the living Doig. He contacted Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding for help.

Agreeing to help Bracho on his Pignatelli-funded mission, Harding spoke with Charlottesville Police and checked the computer database to see if Doig might have been arrested since her disappearance from Lee Park. She'd been dead for nine days. Harding made the painful call.

"I was devastated," says Bracho, who notified Pignatelli that their rescue attempt would be futile; and Pignatelli, who has been a father figure to Ashley since her birth, shared the tragic news with the high school student.

"It's insanity in its purest form," Pignatelli says of the Charlottesville Police's failure, noting that his credit card was on file to pay for the room.

Although a previous report says police had no identification for Doig, Pleasants says Charlottesville police did, even if they didn't recover her wallet, know Doig's identity that night. However, Pleasants says that when the file was handed over to the lead investigator, Detective Lisa Reeves, the incident report failed to make sufficient note of Doig's daughter and any unsuccessful effort to reach her.

"Unfortunately," says Pleasants, "the detective did not know that until later on."

Ashley says she spoke briefly with Reeves after learning the fateful news but says her follow-up calls to the detective have gone unreturned. The teen has additional concerns that include an allegation that several of her mother's belongings have gone missing– among them a laptop computer and cellphone, both purchased for her by Pignatelli.

If police saw no obvious crime signs, they did send Doig's body to the medical examiner's office. Pending final toxicology results, Ashley plans to acquire a copy of the full autopsy report as well as copies of her mother's medical records that might show the extent of injuries she allegedly described suffering at Hicks' hands.

Pignatelli says he is in the process of retaining an attorney to determine any role Hicks might have played and to investigate police response.

"There has to be something we can do," says Pignatelli.

Read more on: Linda Doig


The Police did their job. We can all feel said about this womans fall from grace but the fact of the matter is she succuumbed to her fate by her own behavior. She should have stayed away from Hicks. His reputaion is well known. Don't put her personal failings on a Police department that did its job. If someone has evidence then bring it forward. The police do not have an obligation to delve into speculation without some sort of evidence.

If someobody knows something then speak up. Otherwise let it go.

The best way to honor her is to not repeat her mistakes.

I disagree. This case clearly warranted a complete investigation and deserves an apology to the family. Mistakes were made and it is unfortunate that it may take a lawsuit to find justice.

If the Police had throughly done an investigation, notified Mr. Pignatelli, and Her Daughter, they would not be facing this criticism. Dismissing someones death as "her own behavior" is not only cruel and insensitive, its not how our legal system works. Contributing to the death of another, or actually inflicting harm that may be operant in the death of another are crimes , felonies in fact. Suppose it was your friend, your daughter, or your mother? Would you be content to believe the Police did a good investigation and follow up? Not notifying ANY concern person or family member? Chief Longo, our PD can do better than that...

...bill has never let thought stand in the way of his callous remarks. People die under unusual circumstances all the time. I think we should make sure they were just "unusual circumstances" and not anything criminal. Everyone deserves at least that treatment, eh bill?

This could be the beginning of a new trend. The last thing law enforcement in this area needs is another unsolved murder on their hands. After all, this is right across the street from the John Paul Jones arena. Plus they don't have a very good batting average for homicide clearance rates in a 50 mile radius already.

Gasbag Give them some credit, maybe it's only when the dead people are women that it doesnt matter.

First of all, she was not a "supermodel." That term is reserved--strictly reserved--for that top stratus of model who have reached both the modeling pinnacle and pop culture identity zenith. Examples include Twiggy, Cheryl Tiegs, Cindy Crawford, and that skinny-legged blonde who was married to that pug lookalike Billy Joel. Carol Alt is disputably a supermodel, but that is an argument long conducted in the Frightening Fred Norris arena of model judging. Carol Alt is abhorred when not called a "supermodel."

Now, that we have that settled, I suppose the police likely made some quick judgments and, in retrospect, some mistakes. There is lazy police work and aggressive police work. I am not sure what is going on with CPD; has Longo lost his mojo? There is a shelf life to chiefs, you know (except in Hazzard County and Darby, Pennsylvania). But we have the matter of the West Main Wheelchair Debacle; the mismanagement (more by his bosses than him) of the Occupy silliness, the DNA swabbing a few years back, and this (plus probably more incidents I forgot about).

This lady was a pitiful case of a downward spiral, and I do not agree that the "system abandoned her during her downfall." There are tons of safety nets out there. The same people who complain about the system failing do not remember the liberal floodgates opening 40 years ago when we decided not to institutionalize people, not to commit them unless they "are a clear danger to themselves or someone else." She was free to walk out of any place in which she was admitted. However, when she died, she deserved a bit more investigation to make sure justice was served and, at least, a bit more aggressive police work to ID her and notify next of kin way more quickly. I feel sorry for the lady's family and the lost potential in her early death.

R.I.P.: Jaco Pastorius

Liberalace is right, Linda Doig was in no way ever a "super" model. She was a model. A working model. Maybe even a glamorous model. But not a supermodel. Other notable supermodels besides the one Liberalace mentioned, to give people a better idea, included Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Christie Brinkley, Gia Carangi, Claudia Schiffer, Elle Macpherson and Kate Moss.

From Wiki: "The term supermodel refers to a highly-paid fashion model who usually has a worldwide reputation and often a background in haute couture and commercial modeling. The term became prominent in the popular culture of the 1980s.[12] Supermodels usually work for top fashion designers and labels. They have multi-million dollar contracts, endorsements and campaigns. They have branded themselves as household names and worldwide recognition is associated with their modeling careers.[13][14][15][16] They have been on the covers of various magazines. Claudia Schiffer stated, "In order to become a supermodel one must be on all the covers all over the world at the same time so that people can recognise the girls."[17][18]"

Emphasis on "branded" "household name" "worldwide recognition" "multi million dollar contracts" and "on all the [magazine] covers all over the world at the same time."

Linda Doig was nowhere even close to that level, and when you look at the Wikipedia page of the history of supermodels her name doesn't appear in the many names listed throughout the decades. But, calling her "super model" is guaranteed to generate more clicks on the story then if the Hook just referred to her as a former model, or even glamorous former model.

Actually, at the time, she was an instantly recognized face in most countries, just not America, although if you showed many people her pictures, they'd recognize the person.

when did not notifying the next of kin become proper protocol?

Seems odd that someone would climb totally into the tub before drawing bath water. I guess she could have gotten in to turn on the shower and slumped down before actually turning on the water for a shower. The guy never heard the water come on for hours and hours and never checked on her. But a law suit against a guy with no money, no insurance, and you would have to prove he killed her... or to show gross negligence against the police nor just small negligence. How many law firms would take this on and put their time into it with little possibility of any pay out. Bryan Slaughter did the Fireman's estate vs. the UVA student basically pro bono, but liability here is much less clear than that.

Those of you debating whether or not she was ever a "super model" seriously need to get a life!

Let's face it, the cops are human beings. They probably had dozens of encounters with this woman, and were well aware of her downward spiral. I suspect they eventually find such folks dead all the time. I think they could have done a much better job contacting her daughter, but Pignatelli? It's somehow the cops' job now to contact all ex boyfriends?? Really?

The coroner has said that she died as a result of years of complications brought about by alcohol and drug abuse, right? So the rest of this sounds like just conspiracy theories, unless new info comes out.

And let's not pin a medal on Pignatelli just yet. We don't know how their relationship ended all those years ago, but let's face it. Rich playboys don't tend to stay with their model girlfriends once they start looking - gasp - like they might be 30 or something! If she had stayed with him all these years, then her life probably would have turned out differently. I'm guessing her dumped her, while of course I don't know.

It's also interesting how the father of her child has been specifically deleted from any discussion here in the Hook. Never mentioned once, as if her daughter came from the stork or something.

Another case of a one-time celebrity behaving badly, on a downward spiral, which ultimately resulted in her demise.
She had repeated injuries and she herself always attributed them to falls. Alcoholics do fall, and can seriously hurt themselves, that is reality. There is no evidence, at least anything stated in this article, that her injuries were the result of physical abuse by another person. If medical professionals felt that her injuries were inconsistent with a fall, and suspected abuse, they are obligated to report it.
Family and friends may not want to admit that she was on a path of self-destruction, but that is a fact. They may be feeling remorseful that they didn't try to intervene sooner or more aggressively, or even survivor guilt, but substance abusers usually can't be rescued until they are ready to be saved. It doesn't sound like she was ready quite yet. Trying to lay blame for this tragedy will not help the grieving and healing processes. The police can at most, be faulted for not notifying family members on a more timely basis, but they certainly are not responsible for her death. And if the ME has determined that the cause of death was other than homicide, the police are not required to investigate it as such.
Her loved ones should try to focus on the goodness in her, find comfort in the successes that she once had, and let her rest in peace.

Stop getting sidetracked with whether or not the word "supermodel" applies to this woman. Who cares?

How about addressing the extremely curious way this was handled by the police. We're expected to believe that not notifying next of kin is standard protocol?? Not finding out who the room was registered to and contacting that person = standard protocol?? Not questioning neighboring room occupants when someone turns up dead in a hotel room = standard protocol?? Scary, if so.

The "supermodel" reference IS important. Try asking Fred "The King of Mars" Norris or Carol Alt if this distinction is important. Here is why it is critical:
1. Ms. Doig spent her life keeping herself in shape, for good or bad, to be photogenic. Her downward spiral could well have originated as her looks (youth) decreased. Had she been a true supermodel, she would have had the cinematic, pop culture and media world to fall back on, to work more years not in modeling but in media (as a well known former supermodel can do). Look at Cindy Crawford and her longevity!
2. Girls in this country need to be taught that, whether you're in modeling or big time TV journalism, you have a shelf life. Then you're put out to pasture. If you have a bankroll to bring out to pasture with you, it puts you in better shape. Being a true "supermodel" gives you a better chance of having that financial cushion.
3. Models who worked so hard to become supermodels--like the previously mentioned roster--would roll over in their career-graves if they heard someone like Linda being called a supermodel. Don't you posters have any concern for their egos??!
4. People like Fred Norris have spent years refining the differences between a professional model and a super model. It is no different that the difference between John Hiller and Mickey Lolich. A Big Difference!
5. Once someone has passed, we cannot bring them back. But we can certainly honor their legacy by placing them on the correct rung of the modeling world ladder!

And Sean, the cops are indeed human beings. But so is my plumber; I expect that, when I am exposed to his crack as he is under my sink, that the treatment he gives my pipes will be better than, say, the treatment my milkman would give my pipes.

BTW, what do you all think of Johnny Weir getting married?

R.I.P.: Frank Sindone

Broken ribs are not uncommon in chronic alcoholics. Constant falls over the years of drinking combined with malnourished bones/body can lead to living with multiple broken ribs.

The point is, if you've checked the other articles, she told someone that he had done it. So it wasn't a fall.

And who cares if she was or wasn't defined as a supermodel? Even in her older years she has great self-esteem, and was a quiet person, and ALL of this is in the other articles. She had had scrapes with alcoholism, but in the months before she met Carry, who pushed her to, she had quit drinking, and as a recovering alcoholic, it was really hard.

You can live with broken ribs for quite a while. You can get beaten up multiple times by your abusive live-in boyfriend and not die. These are all reasons that the body was sent to Richmond for an autopsy.. just because she got beaten up 2 weeks prior to drinking herself into an alcoholic coma doesn't make Mr. Wonderful a murderer.

I am an adult child of an alcoholic. My mother was a beautiful young lady. She turned to alcohol later in life and went on a downward spiral. Early on, we blamed everyone around her for her failures, loss of custody of children, car wrecks, fights with love interests, and bad judgement of company. Hospitalized over 15 times, we never gave up hope and always believed she was going to quit drinking and go back to who she was. She never did. It's a disease. It's not someone else's fault. I put her in and out of my house, she lived with others, she was homeless, I would get calls from strangers telling me she was on the street, hotels would call and ask for credit card information, I mean I could write a book of these types of situations. NOTHING could fix it. This was a classy woman, my mother, who just went to hell in a handbasket, over booze. I will never understand it. It's tragic that Linda is dead so early in her life, but no one could help her, just like my mother. But, I am mad at the disease that robbed me of my mother at 59 years old. But, there is a lot more to this story than is being posted/printed and it deserves to be reported more accurately rather than assertions by a few disgruntled friends or family members. The assertions by Pignatelli and the daughter are emotional ones. It's a part of denial to blame others and to project. It's understandable. But what they think happened is exactly that and speculation. Ashley was under someone else's custody. How do you lose custody of a child? By being unfit. That happened prior to her knowing Carey Hicks. He didn't even know her until 2009-ish and I know this personally. As a matter of course, I know a lot of additional information, first-hand, not speculation, that I could impart but I will refrain because I want this comment posted. Just because Pignatelli has a few bucks in the bank and runs a successful company does not make him the judge and jury here. Also, the fact that Carey Hicks has a temper or a record stands as a result of his own battles with alcohol. Linda was not the pillar she once was either.. no homeless alcoholics are and you should expect recklessness, unexpected behavior from them. They are mentally ill and have nothing to lose and just really act out of character - it's part of the disease that they both had/have.

@ Liberalace

You strike again. :D I hope people realize that while what you're saying is true and valid, there's a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm going on as well. (humor doesn't seem to register with many of the people who post here I've come to kind of have to explain it to them.)

That aside, on a more serious note, regarding this: "Her downward spiral could well have originated as her looks (youth) decreased." It seems clear from what I've been reading in the Hook's coverage of this story that Linda's downward spiral can be traced to a back injury she sustained after falling from her roof while doing repairs.

It's the story of many people's lives actually - an unexpected injury, or a lifelong build up of work-related injuries, that then lead to addiction and dependence on pain killers or alcohol to get by. That's why people shouldn't judge Linda's situation. It truly could happen to any of us, and if we're lucky enough that our bodies are pain and injury-free, then we really should be take a moment every day to have some gratitude for that.

I hope this town gets a clue. Hawes is still wearing Duckheads.

What is wrong with you people?? Whether she was a super modle or not is beside the point.
She was Ashleys mother and somebodys daughter.

And what is wrong with CPD that they wouldnt investigate this as a crime? How many times were the police called for domestic disputes between Doig and Hicks? The bruises, the fact that she was dead and the history of domestic abuse should have warranted treating it like a crime scene. It's apparent they dismissed it based on her social status.

Obviously detective Reeves doesn't have any children of her own or she would be more sympathetic to the daughters loss of her mother. And shame on Detective Reeves for not returning any of the dauhters phone calls. How heartless can you be? The daughter is looking for answers so she can finally get some closure.

Come on CPD do your job and stop acting like everybody is beneath you!!!!

It's not a complete Hook article complete w/comments, unless S Jones comes over and babbles incoherently about this.

James, I like the way you think:) day he will, and when he does, he will get a huge surprise. If and when he has the audacity. Promise, if he don't mention my name, I won't mention his..(copyright my ass). Little does he know, I'm not the only one who sees his "true colors" now. His little plan didn't work for him as much as he thought it would. 5000+ emails and 15+ people is more than enough proof. Try shuttin that up! Those that prefer to think I am "crazier" then he is, keep on thinking that..I have more than enough proof to state otherwise. His threats are empty to me. Come on SJones, you have alienated, threatened and provoked, among many more things, everyone else, now try me! Be the last time you tell a mentally ill person to "go kill themselves". You forget, mentally ill, has not a thing to do with intellect. Frankly I think many of these people would like to know how you "really" feel about them, and how you "really" obtain information. Go ahead, try it. How many of these sites, and yes, to include this one right here, you did indeed hack into to find IP's of people that post to them, maybe they would like to have this proof as well. I'm game... are you? This is but a very small message to SJones, people are tired of you and your kind. You are irrelevant, your so called evidence, is useless, and you are pathetic. You are no more important that anyone else here. Get over yourself, stop being an online nuisance/predator. We are so over you! None of this is threats, it is promises, none of this is slander its the truth, you should understand atleast that for someone who supposedly swears that is all you ever wanted, well you got it, and everyone else will have it as well if they so do desire to have it. Slowly but surely your damage is unraveling, the friendships you have damaged, will indeed come back together, the mess you made, cleaned up, you will be nothing more than a memory, a very bad one of course. And Morgans case will resume on the path it should have been on to begin with without your disastrous interference. Personally every last one of these individuals would have every right to come after you, but that would need to be their choice, that one isnt mine to make. I have come forward, I wish they would, but that's not up to me. I refuse to hide behind your useless threats regardless who you know. I only regret it took me 9 months to realize just how deep the damage you have done was. To see exactly how many you hurt, that you revealed personally to me through your own words and emails. Well I see it now, and unlike most, I will do something about it. I'm not afraid of you and as far as I'm concerned, according to the laws here, I among many others here have no reason to be. This probably won't be printed, if it is, I would be pretty surprised, but regardless I've said what I needed too. I'm done with you.

As far as this topic goes, I have to agree with those that feel this was not investigated properly, a persons drug use, history of illnesses, should not be a determining factor when it comes to a suspicious death such as Linda's. I truly feel for her family, I wish both my condolences and prayers to them. I'm done here.

A whole lot of chatter so the facts seem to be clouded.

Fact: Public Record: Doig had a Protective Order served against Hicks....He was with Doig when she died. That is merit, alone, to perform a full investigation.
Fact: Doig was hospitalized for her "condition" before she lived at Lee Park; who knew she was being discharged and why didn't they secure her safe haven?
Fact: There's a whole lot of finger pointing but not a lot of ownership of responsibility and accountability. The Police Department should NOT close this case. Doig deserves that; she was a woman; a human being for God's sake. No matter if you are a grocery bagger, an attorney, a doctor or a former matter your station in life.
What is going on with our society?? Really, seriously....seriously?