The family of Diane Schuler wants to have her body exhumed to resolve questions over whether she drank and smoked marijuana before the wrong-way Taconic State Parkway crash, an attorney for her family said on “Larry King Live” Tuesday night.
“The body will be exhumed,” said Dominic Barbara, a Garden City attorney for Schuler’s husband, Daniel, on the CNN program. “We have cause and reason to.”
The decision comes five days after the family received a copy of the autopsy report by the Westchester County medical examiner’s office.
The report found that Diane Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, smoked marijuana and drank the equivalent of 10 drinks, leading to a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.
Tuesday night, Daniel Schuler said the results were a mistake and vowed to reclaim his wife’s reputation as a loving mother.
“Larry, it’s just not true,” Schuler said emphatically. “Someone messed up somewhere.”
Pressed to elaborate on the errors, Schuler said: “I know my wife was not drinking. She drinks very rarely.”
Donna Greene, a spokeswoman for Westchester’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Millard Hyland, said the county stands behind the autopsy results.
Schuler was driving herself, her two children and three young nieces home from an upstate campground on July 26 when the crash happened. She drove south into northbound traffic on the Taconic for 1.7 miles before colliding headlong into a sport utility vehicle, causing an explosion.
Killed were Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter Erin, her three nieces, Emma Hance, 8, Alyson Hance, 7, and Kate Hance, 5, and three Yonkers men in the SUV — Guy Bastardi, 49, and his father, Michael Bastardi, 81, and their friend, Daniel Longo, 74.
The Bastardi and Longo families have been incensed by speculation by Schuler and Barbara that Diane Schuler had medical ailments that caused the crash. The Longo family released a statement last night that the appearance on King’s show “causes more pain.”
But Jay Schuler, Daniel’s sister-in-law and a friend of Diane’s, told King that the family had decided to speak out and seek new tests to vindicate Diane and let the other families know their loved ones were not killed by a drunken driver.
“She can’t rest in peace until we can clear her,” Jay Schuler said. “Diane would want us to do this, to fight for her.”
Barbara did not say when the body would be exhumed from the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury. The Diocese of Rockville Centre, which runs the cemetery, could force the Schulers to obtain a court order for the exhumation. Diocese spokesman Sean Dolan has said such requests are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Barbara did not say what new tests would be conducted. One theory he has floated, that Schuler suffered from a strokelike transient ischemic attack, would not be detected by an autopsy, experts say.
Tuesday night, Barbara said the autopsy showed that Diane Schuler’s body was “charred” in the accident and cited experts who claim heat can turn blood sugar into alcohol. However, the autopsy report, released to Newsday Tuesday, referred only to charring on her legs.
Daniel Schuler, who gave short answers, ducked questions about whether his wife had ever smoked marijuana, deferring to his attorney. “We’re not able to answer that at this moment,” Barbara said.
King questioned how Schuler and Barbara could believe all of the investigating authorities are wrong.
“Is there a plot, Dominic?” King asked.
“No, of course not, Larry. Please,” Barbara said.