The Times of Northwest Indiana reports…
“The family of Domonique “Nikki” Smith announced Thursday morning they filed a lawsuit against Family Christian Center and its pastors, Steve and Melodye Munsey, in connection with their 18-year-old daughter’s death.
Smith’s mother, Vicki Walker, said in a news conference at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point that she had unanswered questions about her daughter’s death May 29, 2015, in a pool at the Munsey residence.
She said she did not suspect foul play, but felt Melodye Munsey, who Walker said was at the residence at the time of Smith’s death, was negligent, and failed to show adequate care for her daughter’s safety.
Smith was found floating face down in a pool at the Munsey’s residence on Wilderness Drive in Schererville that afternoon. Walker said her daughter had been a lifeguard and was a strong swimmer.
Smith was at the residence to baby-sit the Munseys’ 6-year-old granddaughter, according to a news release.
“She should have been watching my child, while (Smith) watched their child,” Walker said.
Smith also raised questions about an alleged “15-minute gap” in surveillance footage obtained by police from the Munsey residence.
“I believe the tape was altered,” Smith said.
The Munsey family’s attorney, former Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez, said Thursday afternoon he had not received a copy of the civil complaint and could not comment on pending litigation.
The Family Christian Center, 340 W. 45th Ave. in Munster, has 15,000 weekly worshipers and a congregation of more than 30,000.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Thursday morning in Lake County Civil Court.
Defendants include Family Christian World Inc., the Munseys, Indiana Land Trust Company and Domonique Smith’s father, Darryl Anthony Smith.
The family says in the lawsuit that Smith arrived at the Munseys’ residence at 10 a.m. to baby-sit their grandchild.
Melodye Munsey and a second woman were at the residence, the lawsuit states.
At 1 p.m., Smith was reportedly discovered unresponsive in the Munseys’ swimming pool, according to the lawsuit.
Paramedics were dispatched to the house some time thereafter, according to the lawsuit, and Smith was transported to Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Dyer (now called Franciscan Health Dyer), which was about a half-mile farther away from the residence than the closest hospital, Community Hospital in Munster.
The family says in the lawsuit Steve Munsey is affiliated with Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital.
Smith never regained consciousness and died June 1, according to the lawsuit. A toxicology screening indicated she had no drugs or alcohol in her system, and, despite drowning, water was not present in her lungs.
Lake County Chief Deputy Coroner Scott Sefton said Wednesday that Smith’s death was ruled an accidental drowning, but no autopsy was performed because Smith’s organs were donated.
Walker said she decided to pursue legal action after she viewed on July 13 the surveillance footage from the day of Smith’s death, which was obtained by the Schererville Police Department.
She said Melodye Munsey did not appear to act with urgency when she discovered Smith’s body in the water.
Walker said Melodye Munsey later told her she saw Smith’s “soul leave her body,” so there was no sense of emergency.
Walker further said the surveillance footage did not appear to show everything that happened, and contradicted some of the Munseys’ claims.
Walker is represented in the lawsuit by lead attorney Max Solomon and local counsel Trent A. McCain.
Walker has requested a jury trial.”
Pastor Steve Munsey