Dana Gaul, who was cleared of murder charge in connection with fatal stabbing of Jehlon Rose, files lawsuit against Worcester police, claims ‘fabricated evidence’
A Leicester man who was arrested and charged with murder in connection with a stabbing last year that killed 19-year-old Jehlon Rose in Worcester — and was later cleared of those charges — has filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Worcester and the Worcester Police Department.
Dana Gaul, 43, was arrested and charged with murder on June 24, 2021, roughly seven months after Rose was stabbed outside 96 Water St. on Nov. 24, 2020. Rose died in the hospital three days after the stabbing.
The Worcester Police Department Detective Bureau investigated the stabbing for roughly seven months and said it identified Gaul using surveillance footage, cell phone video and images as well as eyewitnesses.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court Monday, lawyers representing Gaul, however, claim Worcester police officers used “fabricated evidence,” which included coercing third parties who were not at the scene of the murder into agreeing that grainy photos taken from surveillance video at the scene looked like Gaul.
The lawsuit names five Worcester police officers including Joseph A. Albano, Elisa Baez, Dan Heavey, Sean Lovely and Tim Foley.
“There was never any legitimate evidence connecting him to the murder,” attorney Mark Loevy-Reyes writes in the lawsuit.
After Gaul’s arraignment in 2021, he was held without bail until new evidence came to light that pointed to another individual being responsible for the killing of Rose.
Court records show that a Worcester man, Jorge Luis Rivera-Baez, is now being investigated in connection with the fatal stabbing of Rose.
The commonwealth entered a nolle prosequi in its case against Gaul in February, meaning the state would not pursue charges against Gaul. The Worcester Police Department continues to investigate Rose’s killing.
A spokesperson for the WPD declined to comment citing the pending litigation but said the department worked with the Worcester DA’s office and the grand jury process.
Court records show that the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory performed DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene, which included Rose’s clothing. A State Police Crime Laboratory forensic scientist concluded that the DNA profile generated from some of the evidence was a mixture that included the victim’s DNA and an unidentified contributor, and excluded Gaul.
Gaul, however, was secretly indicted by a Worcester County Grand Jury in late June, more than two weeks after the DNA report from the Mass. State Police Crime Laboratory excluded him from being the source of the commonwealth’s DNA evidence.
“Based on the fabricated witness identification, unduly suggestive identification procedures, and false reports fabricated by the Defendants, Plaintiff was charged with murder,” the lawsuit reads.
Gaul was wrongfully imprisoned for five months as a result, lawyers said.
On Feb. 11, the commonwealth dropped all charges and Gaul was cleared.
He now “seeks justice for the harm that Defendants have caused him and redress for the loss of liberty and the hardships that he has endured, and continues to suffer, as a result of the Defendants’ misconduct,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit references a Nov. 10, 2021 meeting where an individual and his attorney walked into the Worcester Police headquarters and provided authorities with evidence that appeared to clear Gaul. According to court records, the man was Rivera-Baez, who is Hispanic but investigators say bears a striking resemblance to Gaul, who is Black.
Following that meeting, before being cleared of the charges, Gaul was released on bail with GPS monitoring.
“Unlike Plaintiff, that person had a long history of violent offenses and matched the description by witnesses to the murder,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims police targeted Gaul due to him being a Black man and claims that witnesses to the murder described the assailant as white.
Court records show Rivera-Baez has faced a slew of assault charges dating back to 1999.
He recently was ordered held without bail following a dangerousness hearing related to charges of strangulation and assault and battery on a police officer from last year.
According to the lawsuit, Worcester police officers had known Gaul from prior interactions and set about to “easily ‘solve’ the murder by falsely implicating him.”
Officers falsely identified a female witness who they presented as being Gaul’s cousin in an effort to boost her credibility, the lawsuit claims.
“One of the purported identification witnesses was a woman with a long criminal record and pending criminal charges,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants falsely identified this woman as being Plaintiff’s cousin in an effort to boost her credibility. Defendants used the pendency of the woman’s criminal charges to pressure her into providing a false identification of Plaintiff. Defendants did not disclose these actions.”
Due to his imprisonment and the prospect of life in prison, Gaul has suffered trauma and continues to suffer from humiliation, constant fear, anxiety and other physical and psychological effects, the lawsuit said.