Posted: Friday, September 11, 2015 – 12:16 PM
(CNS) – The widow of a celebrity photographer is suing her late husband’s mother and sister, alleging they made statements to police attempting to implicate her in his death.
Melanie Manson, who was married to Christopher Voelker, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the Los Angeles Superior Court suit, which names her spouse’s mother, Linda Voelker, and sister, Donna Voelker.
Linda and Donna Voelker could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit, which alleges defamation, false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Christopher Voelker died a year ago today at his Northridge home at age 53. He had been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a spinal cord injury in a motocross accident when he was a teenager, and media reports stated he died of an apparent suicide.
Among the famous people he photographed were Mick Fleetwood, Billy Zane, Carmen Electra, Robert David Hall, Christina Applegate, Beyonce, Chris Burke, Brandy, Chingy, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Angela Simmons and Tony Orlando.
According to Manson’s lawsuit, her mother-in-law walked into the Los Angeles Police Department’s Devonshire Division the day her son died and made statements to police that had “the clear motive to communicate a murder charge or involvement in the death of Christopher against Melanie Manson.”
Linda Voelker said, among other things, that Manson and her son had a “tumultuous relationship” and that Manson had “threatened violence toward (Christopher) Voelker in the past and was already speaking of cremating (his) body,” according to the suit.
Her mother-in-law’s intent was to initiate a police report “so as to communicate that the death was a suspicious death not of Christopher’s own doing,” the plaintiff alleges.
Manson contends the allegedly defamatory remarks caused harm to her reputation and occupation as a makeup artist.
Last October, Linda Voelker, while trying to force her way into the photography studio her son and the plaintiff owned, alleged that her daughter- in-law “murdered Christopher,” according to the suit.
Donna Voelker, who was with her mother, told Manson she “should have gotten a lawyer,” the suit states.
The plaintiff, fearing for her safety, refused to let the women in and said she was calling the police, the suit says. Linda and Donna Voelker left before officers arrived, according to the complaint.
Manson alleges her sister-in-law tried to dissuade her from attending a memorial service for her husband, held less than a month after his death. Donna Voelker sent email messages telling the plaintiff to “be prepared, no one wants you here” and “you are one sick and demented person,” the suit alleges.
Manson attended the service anyway, but was shunned by her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, who glared and laughed at her, according to her court papers.
Manson read a copy of the police report about her husband’s death in August and it appeared to have been initiated by her husband’s mother and sister, the suit states.
After reading their allegations and “appreciating the significance of the implications … plaintiff was shocked, overwhelmed and continued … to suffer emotional distress,” her suit states.