No Charges to Be Filed in Wrong-Way Crash That Left Eight Dead

Westchester County DA: Charges died with Diane Schuler.

August 18, 2009, 12:05 AM

Aug. 18, 2009 -- No charges will be filed in relation to the fatal collision last month caused by a mother -- drunk and high, according to toxicology tests -- who drove the wrong way down the Taconic State Parkway in New York, killing herself and seven other people, a prosecutor said.

"Diane Schuler died in the crash and the charges died with her," Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said.

The Associated Press reported today that investigators could not find any evidence that Schuler, whose daughter and nieces were among the dead, drank alcohol or smoked marijuana before getting in the car for the 2 1/2 hour drive home from upstate New York.

Her husband had followed in a second car with the family dog and was not involved in the crash.

Schuler underwent a significant change over a small span of time that would drastically change the lives of three families, according to a private investigator hired by the Schuler family.

Tom Ruskin, the president of CMP Group Investigations, has been hard at work trying to piece together the final moments of the crash that has horrified the nation and left Schuler's loved ones baffled.

"We've got multiple investigators working hundreds of hours trying to retrace her steps," he said. "Toll receipts, cell phone records, credit card receipts."

The timeline began at 9:30 a.m. at a campground in upstate New York. Ruskin says shortly after Schuler left for home, appearing sober, she stopped at McDonald's.

In surveillance video captured shortly after at a gas station, Schuler appeared sober and in control, Ruskin says.

"You see Diane Schuler filling up the minivan, and then you very clearly see her entering the convenience store," he says. "We now know that she was attempting to purchase Tylenol or Advil gel caps. Did she appear normal? Absolutely."

At 11:37 a.m., Schuler's niece Emma, 8, called her father, Warren Hance, Schuler's brother, to tell him they were running late. At 12:08 p.m. the Hances called back and had what has been described as a "normal" conversation with Schuler. But over the next 48 minutes, something went terribly wrong.

At 12:56 p.m., Emma called her father back in a panic.

"What did Emma say to her dad?" Ruskin said. "She's expressing ... something is wrong with Diane. Diane is incoherent, she is confused and they are lost."

The call dropped out and Schuler's cell phone was later found on top of a wall by a bridge near the highway. "It means 99.9 percent sure she got out of the car," Ruskin later said.

Schuler's brother called the police to ask them to issue an Amber alert. But by then, it was likely too late, according to Ruskin.

The Taconic and the Toxicology Report

Twenty-five minutes after that final phone call, Schuler had already made the fatal wrong turn that would kill her and her 3-year-old daughter, her three nieces, and Guy Bastardi, his father Michael Bastardi and their friend Daniel Longo, who were riding in an oncoming SUV.

The toxicology report would later reveal that Schuler had the equivalent of 10 drinks and marijuana in her system. A bottle of vodka was found at the crash scene.

But her husband, Daniel Schuler, won't accept that his wife was drinking.

Five-year-old Bryan Schuler, who is now in a rehab facility, was told over the weekend that he was the only survivor of the crash.

Following the toxicology reports, Schuler's husband said his wife had left the campground, where the road trip began, completely sober.

"I don't say that the report is accurate or not accurate," the Schulers' lawyer, Dominic Barbara, told "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo Aug. 7, referring to the toxicology report. "What I say is that none of this case is logical."

"Something medical had to have happened," Barbara said in a press conference the day before.

Barbara has tried to pin the crash on a stroke caused by an underlying diabetes condition. Daniel Schuler and his attorney have said that they believe it's possible Diane Schuler suffered a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, a mild strokelike condition that can cause disorientation.

Experts told such an attack is unlikely.

"This is not typical presentation for TIAs," Dr. Larry Goldstein, director of the Center for Cerebrovascular Disease at Duke University, said. "There are many, many other potential causes to have an alteration of behavior. TIA would not be in my top three causes."

Previously, Barbara suggested that Schuler may have ingested alcohol in an attempt to raise a low blood sugar level, a theory experts said demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of both diabetes and strokes.

"There is no way that having a stroke or that diabetes prompted her to drink. There is no medical explanation that would explain that assertion," said Dr. Aman Patel, director of the neurosurgery residency program at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Schuler Family: 'This Is Not the Woman They Know'

Schuler's prolonged erratic driving suggested that she was not affected by a stroke. During the four hours she was on the road, Schuler crossed the median on the Taconic State Parkway three times and state police received a number of calls reporting her.

"This is a killing. Don't call it an accident," Irving Anolik, attorney for the Bastardi family, who lost a father and son in the wreck, told "Good Morning America" last week. Anolik said that any medical condition theories are "at war with the autopsy report, with the blood analysis, with the whole panorama of things that surround this killing."

Still, Daniel Schuler insisted during the news conference that he had never seen his wife drunk and that "she was the perfect wife."

"Do you think we'd be doing this if we thought she was an alcoholic?" Barbara asked.

Mourning family members are incredulous.

"We had an occasional pina colada at a family barbecue," Jay Schuler, the wife of Daniel Schuler's brother, said on "GMA." "She was meticulous, safe, I trusted her with my son when I left the country ... those three girls before her own children were her life."

"This is absolutely not the woman they know," she said. "[Not] who I trusted my children with."

The Associated Press and ABC News' Lee Ferran contributed to this report.