Time and again, New York State Police did not get the access they desired to family members of Diane Schuler during their probe of the wrong-way Taconic State Parkway crash, according to authorities and the official 15-page police report, with witness interviews attached, that was released last week.
It's unclear whether more access to Schuler's family would have explained the central mystery of the July 26 crash that killed her and seven others: Why was she drunk and high driving home from an upstate camping trip with five children in the minivan? The crash killed Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, her 2-year-old daughter, three young nieces from Floral Park, and three Yonkers men in the sport utility vehicle the minivan struck.
The three-week investigation did include some interviews with family, the report shows, and the probe was able to establish the cause of the crash as pot and alcohol through toxicology and ultimately yielded the most detailed timeline to date of Schuler's whereabouts that day.
But the report states that police were frustrated by Schuler's husband, Daniel, after he retained Garden City attorney Dominic Barbara. State Police Capt. Arthur Boyko said investigators believe Daniel Schuler knows more than he told authorities.
"They were not 100 percent forthcoming on all issues really," Boyko said of the Schulers and Barbara. "[The Schuler family was] as cooperative as they would let themselves be and their attorneys would let them be."
Mum after news conferenceThe most dramatic example in the report came on Aug. 6, when Barbara invited two State Police investigators to his Garden City law office for an interview with Daniel Schuler. According to the report, Barbara had assured them Schuler would answer "any questions" they had.
They had been waiting 20 minutes in a room in Barbara's law office - where the walls are lined with blown-up news articles about former famous clients such as Joey Buttafuoco - when Barbara opened the door. Although he had just presided over a nationally broadcast news conference with Schuler, he told the investigators that his client wouldn't speak with them, without further explanation.
"On this date no interview was conducted," Investigator James Boyle noted dryly that day, Aug. 6, in police paperwork.
Daniel Schuler declined to comment through a private investigator, Thomas Ruskin.
Daniel Schuler "was available for an interview the day after burying his own wife and daughter." Ruskin said. "He's very upset about being criticized over not being available and cooperative."
Indeed, Daniel Schuler and Warren Hance, Diane's brother and father of three daughters who died in the crash, spoke freely but briefly to police in the immediate days after the crash. Daniel Schuler and his sister-in-law Jay Schuler told police on July 31, the day after the funerals, that Diane used pot regularly but drank little.
After the toxicology results were released on Aug. 4, Schuler and Hance spoke to police only one time each, both with attorneys present, the report said.
Conducted separately, the interviews focused on the two men's contacts with Diane Schuler that day. Barbara wouldn't allow any questions about Diane's history of substance abuse, police said. Hance told police he had no idea his sister smoked marijuana and knew her only as a social drinker, the report said.
Mother too grief-stricken
Hance's wife, Jackie, was too grief-stricken to meet with police at all, the report said. When they arrived at her home to talk about two phone calls she made to Diane Schuler before the crash, a retired New York City police detective at the house, identified as Anthony DiCarlo, said she didn't want to speak.
Boyko said investigators wanted to talk to Jackie but understood her feelings. He said investigators considered Warren Hance "cooperative."
"We were sensitive to the fact that they lost their family," Boyko said.
Warren and Jackie Hance declined to comment through a family friend. Their attorneys didn't return calls, nor did Barbara.
Ruskin said Daniel Schuler maintains that his wife was not an alcoholic or chronic drug user but rather suffered from some kind of medical issue the day of the crash. The Schuler family is trying to arrange a loan to have her blood samples retested, Ruskin said.
Irving Anolik, a Nanuet attorney serving as a spokesman for the family of Michael Bastardi and his son Guy, who died in the crash, said the Schulers and Hances will probably be questioned under oath for depositions after a lawsuit is filed.
"We want to know who was the person who gave her the liquor? Who was the person who gave her the marijuana?" Anolik said. "Our investigation is not over."