Friday, March 1 1996
It was a crime the way that she was treated

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Barefoot and bathrobed, Della Dante Sutorius trembled on the arms of two burly Hamilton County sheriff's deputies as they escorted her to their waiting cruiser.

She had just been arrested for the slaying of her husband, Dr. Darryl Sutorius.

She had also been turned into a 10-second loop of video sizzle, thanks to the deputies and the replay-hungry directors of TV news.

Mrs. Sutorius was filmed during the arrest and short walk to the car. As she ducked down to get into the back seat, there was a flash of bare thigh - on both the news at 6 and 11 p.m.

Now that's news you can use.

There is an official explanation for Mrs. Sutorius' attire. It goes like this:

We were only following orders.

Rules are rules

''It was not practical nor within policy to allow her to make a change of clothes,'' says Col. Dan Wolfangel, Sheriff Si Leis' spokesman.

''She would have had to do it in the vision of the officers.''

The officers were male. Mrs. Sutorius is a woman. It's against policy for a male officer to watch a female suspect get dressed.

The sheriff's office had known about Mrs. Sutorius' gender for more than a week. She'd been a suspect in her husband's death since his body was found Feb. 19 in the basement of the couple's expensive Symmes Township home.

A week seems like enough time in such a high-profile case: oft-married new wife accused of shooting rich doctor. It wouldn't have taken much to have a female officer on the scene when the woman was arrested. Then the doctor's wife could have been under police supervision when she slipped into something for her ride downtown.

''That's not a guarantee,'' Col. Wolfangel notes. ''But that would have been at least a possibility. The female officer could have accompanied her to get any belongings.''

With no female deputy present, the male officers waltzed Mrs. Sutorius out of her house. She was wearing what she had on when she came to the door. It was 4:45 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. The temperature was 69 degrees.

The weather was so-so for a shoeless stroll in a white bathrobe. But, the timing couldn't have been better for TV news to show its smarmy side.

Serious crime

The basis for the no-clothes hustle to the squad car is the severity of the charges. Mrs. Sutorius is charged with aggravated murder.

''That is the most serious criminal offense in the state of Ohio,'' says Roger Wright, UC associate professor of criminal justice.

A former cop with seven years experience on the Memphis police force, Mr.Wright also is a lawyer. He's arrested people in their underwear. And, he can enter a court of law and say why he did it.

''Police have a legal right to arrest somebody - man or woman - as they find them,'' he notes. ''To take them to jail that way is not unusual nor is it improper. Does it look good? Maybe not. But it certainly is the right thing to do.''

Col. Wolfangel has fielded ''a couple'' calls about Mrs. Sutorius' barefoot arrest. He's sort of mystified that anyone would complain about it.

''If we'd have brought her out in bra and panties we can understand the criticism,'' he says.

But then, even that wouldn't matter. ''The issue of clothing is not an issue,'' Col. Wolfangel reasons. When a suspect reaches the Justice Center, ''she gets a new suit of clothes anyway.''

Those snazzy jail ensembles may beat a bathrobe. But she didn't get one for the walk to the car.

Of course, all of this could have been avoided if someone had put a female officer on the case.

Maybe somebody just forgot. Tuesday was a busy day at the sheriff's office.

Early that morning, Sheriff Si was involved in a traffic accident on Interstate 75. His car struck another vehicle and sent its driver to the hospital.

The accident report listed the sheriff's ''driver inattention'' as a contributing factor. He was not cited, charged or arrested.

Had he been, you can bet no one would have dragged him from his car in his bare feet.

Cliff Radel's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.