Even before they seek to exhume Diane Schuler's body for a new autopsy, her family wants to have DNA tests done to verify the identity of lab samples that Westchester authorities said showed she was drunk and high before the wrong-way Taconic State Parkway crash, a private investigator said Wednesday.
Schuler's family was trying Wednesday to arrange a transfer of the blood, brain, urine and eye fluid samples from the Westchester medical examiner's office to a laboratory of their choice, said Thomas Ruskin, president of the CMP Protective and Investigative Group, which is working for Schuler's family.
Ruskin said the samples would be matched with Schuler's DNA, which investigators will obtain from her toothbrush.
"When we get these samples, we will know that it's Diane or not," Ruskin said, adding that he had no evidence to believe Westchester did anything wrong. Schuler's husband, Daniel, has said his wife drank only rarely, and he has publicly disputed the autopsy findings.
Donna Greene, a spokeswoman for Westchester Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Millard Hyland, said the office stood by the autopsy and toxicology results that showed Schuler, 36, had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and had smoked marijuana before the July 26 crash in upstate Mount Pleasant that killed Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter, three nieces and three Yonkers men.
Forensic experts said the DNA tests were more likely than a new autopsy to overturn the medical examiner's findings.
"Exhuming the body is not going to give you any information on drinking or drugs because there's no blood left," said Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner of New York City. He said a new autopsy may be able to show contributing conditions missed by the first one.
Ruskin said an independent review would re-examine "every aspect" of the first autopsy, but referred questions to Schuler family attorney Dominic Barbara, of Garden City, who didn't respond to phone messages yesterday.
It was unclear Wednesday whether the new autopsy would include analysis of hair, which would show prior drug use.
On CNN's "Larry King Live" Tuesday night, Barbara said he wanted a close look taken at Schuler's teeth and jaw for a 7-week-old tooth abscess that he said could have caused a strokelike event called a Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA.
The autopsy report described Schuler's jaw and teeth as badly damaged from the crash but did not note abscesses.
Ruskin said Wednesday it could take months to exhume the body from the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, which is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre.
While the diocese does not require a court order to exhume a body, spokesman Sean Dolan said Wednesday, "We probably would need a court order, in this type of a case." He said the diocese has not received a request to exhume the body.
With Chau Lam