The family of Diane Schuler is awaiting new toxicology test results it hopes will show the West Babylon mother was not drunk and high when she drove the wrong way on an upstate parkway last summer, killing eight, including herself.
Samples of Schuler's blood and other fluids were turned over in February to NMS Labs, a state-certified firm, said Dr. Millard Hyland, Westchester's chief medical examiner. Hyland's office conducted the tests showing Schuler's blood-alcohol level at 0.19 and "high levels" of the psychoactive substance in marijuana in her system.
The July 26 crash on the southbound Taconic State Parkway in Mount Pleasant sparked national headlines and helped spur state legislation making it a felony to drive drunk with children in a vehicle. Killed were Schuler, 36, her 2-year-old daughter, her three young nieces and three Yonkers men in a sport utility vehicle struck head-on by Schuler's minivan.
Schuler's husband, Daniel, has vowed to clear his wife's name, saying she was too good a mother to drive impaired.
Thomas Ruskin of CMP Group, the private investigative firm hired by Daniel Schuler, said Tuesday the lab is retesting for alcohol and drugs, but also ensuring there wasn't a lab mix-up. The samples are being tested against DNA obtained from Diane's toothbrush and undergoing additional tests about which Ruskin would not elaborate.
Results are due "in a short period of time," Ruskin said. "We are being methodical."
Hyland said Schuler's family waited long enough to retest the samples to ensure the new results will differ. The samples degrade over time, he said.
"There will be a reduction in all the drug results," Hyland said in an interview.
Ruskin said the tests were not conducted right away because the Schuler family had to raise money. Such tests could cost $10,000, experts said.
Toxicology experts had differing views about the new tests. Dr. Elliot Gross, a former New York City chief medical examiner, said, "I would think there won't be substantial differences, if the samples were properly stored."
But Bruce Goldberger, professor of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said marijuana levels fall over time even in well-preserved samples. "I wouldn't expect the results to be the same," he said.
NMS Labs declined to comment.
Irving Anolik, a spokesman for the family of Yonkers crash victims, father and son Michael and Guy Bastardi, said of the new tests: "I don't anticipate any different diagnosis." The Bastardis are suing Diane Schuler's estate and her brother, Warren Hance, who owned the minivan Schuler was driving.
After the test are completed, the Schulers will make a decision about exhuming Diane's body for a new autopsy, Ruskin said. But, asked about an exhumation Tuesday, Daniel Schuler's attorney, Dominic Barbara of Garden City, said: "That's one of the things that's going to be happening real soon." He declined to elaborate.