Schulers seek examination of official autopsy report

Daniel Schuler, husband of Diane Schuler, said his Daniel Schuler, husband of Diane Schuler, said his wife was not a drunk and denied they were having marriage problems. Videojournalist: Audrey C. Tiernan Photo Credit:

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Investigators for Diane Schuler's family Thursday took the first step toward deciding whether to exhume her body, launching an examination of the official autopsy report that found she was drunk and high before last month's deadly Taconic State Parkway crash.

The roughly 20-page report - written by the Westchester medical examiner's office in the last month and released to the Schulers Wednesday - will be scrutinized by several forensic experts, said Thomas Ruskin of CMP Protective and Investigative Group, hired by Schuler's family.

"We're evaluating what was done, how it was done, when it was done, and any things that we may take exception to," Ruskin said. The decision to exhume the body, he said, "could take weeks."

The report says Schuler, 36, died of "blunt force injuries," Ruskin said. She is buried in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.

Authorities say Schuler had a 0.19 blood alcohol content, more than twice the legal limit, and marijuana in her system on July 26 when she was driving her two children and three nieces home to Long Island from an upstate camping trip. Schuler drove a minivan south for nearly two miles into northbound traffic on the Taconic Parkway before crashing head-on into a sport utility vehicle. She was killed, along with all but one of the children in her vehicle and three Yonkers men in the SUV.

A spokesman for the family of two of the Yonkers men, Michael Bastardi, 81, and his son Guy Bastardi, 49, said samples of Schuler's hair follicles should have been tested. Experts say there can be a two-month record of prior drug use per inch of hair. It would show whether "there is a pattern that she was using drugs," Anolik said.

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Westchester County spokeswoman Donna Greene confirmed no hair tests were conducted. A Westchester official who spoke on condition of anonymity said hair drug tests aren't done in accident investigations.

Westchester's chief medical examiner, Dr. Millard Hyland, has stood by the autopsy. Brian Sichol, the Bastardis' Suffern attorney, said the test would not help a civil suit against the Schulers. It could be relevant in an ongoing Suffolk Child Protective Services probe into whether Schuler's husband, Daniel, knew about a substance abuse problem, said Ed Gavin, a Massapequa private investigator and child welfare agency consultant.

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