Paralyzed in Paradise

Just when things couldn't get any worse for Heather GrossmanĖthey did

Heather Grossman tells a classic tale of domestic abuse. She says her husband John spit in her face, slapped her, tossed garbage on her bed, threw bags of dog feces at her, smeared food on her face, locked her in a bedroom away from her children, threatened the kids and called them names. When she forgot to buy John's favorite red licorice or chocolate-covered soy nuts, she says, he screamed for hours.

"Every morning I would cry. Every night I would cry. He would come and yell at me in the morning. The kids left a box of cereal out, or the dog got in the garbage," Heather recalls.

"I ran this house... I took care of the kids, ran the kids by myself. Took calls for John, I took care of errands for John. I did anything to try to keep him happy, and nothing did. Nothing did."

Kevin Scanlon
Ralph and Florence Stephens have moved to Arizona to care for their daughter and grandchildren.
Kevin Scanlon
Ralph and Florence Stephens have moved to Arizona to care for their daughter and grandchildren.

She would have walked away, Heather says. If she could have.

The twist on this classic is that Heather Grossman is a quadriplegic Ė paralyzed from the neck down. She relies on a team of round-the-clock nurses to tend to her every need, from her breathing to her bowels.

Because she is unable to move, let alone physically defend herself, the abuse by her husband is even more serious in the eyes of the law. Nurses have witnessed it; the police have documented it.

John Grossman won't talk about his relationship with Heather. Through his attorney, Fred Petti, he denies all charges of abuse.

John was trained to take care of her when a nurse was not present. But Heather alleges he often didn't Ė that he refused to suction mucus from her lungs, that he crammed food into her mouth, stabbed her with a fork, left her unattended for dangerously long periods of time.

When Heather complained to John, she says he threatened to send her children to foster care and put her in a nursing home, where, he assured her, she would be sexually abused.

The threat of a nursing home had weight. Heather's in-home medical care alone costs more than $250,000 a year, and John's millionaire father foots the bill. Estranged from her parents, with no money of her own, Heather says she had no choice but to endure the abuse. Her nurses eventually told the Paradise Valley Police Department, which launched an extensive investigation. Initially, like many victims, Heather and her children denied the abuse. But Heather finally got in touch with her parents -- calling them in secret with a nurse's help, in the dark so surveillance cameras wouldn't tip John off. She was able to have John removed from the house and file for divorce.

Last December, the police turned over a 1,000-plus-page report to the Maricopa County Attorney, recommending multiple felony charges against John. Detective Michael Cole, who has 14 years' experience in law enforcement, says it's the most detailed case he's ever worked on, one of the best substantiated -- and "one of the most egregious."

Paradise Valley only recommended felony charges in instances where what Heather and the kids told the cops was corroborated by third parties.

But in March, the county attorney declined prosecution, giving the police a flat turn down, without a request for more information. In April, County Attorney Rick Romley made headlines with a much-touted report on Child Protective Services and his contentions that abuse of children should not be tolerated.

Heather's parents have given the County Attorney's Office additional lists of witnesses. They've written to Governor Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard. Napolitano's office offered referrals to victims' rights groups, but otherwise they've gotten no response.

The Paradise Valley police have the option of filing misdemeanor charges in city court, but both the cops and Heather feel the alleged abuse warrants harsher punishment for John Grossman.

Time is running out. The statute of limitations for filing charges is one year; the last incident of alleged abuse was June 2, 2002.

Ralph and Florence Stephens, Heather's parents, say the abuse was close to deadly, that the stress of the situation alone was too much for Heather to endure. When they arrived in Paradise Valley last year, their 5'5" daughter weighed 93 pounds. Her blood pressure was soaring and she'd had pneumonia twice.

"When she called me," Florence remembers, "she said, Mom, I'm not going to last a year.'"

Florence Stephens had already watched romance apparently lead to tragedy once in her daughter's life.

Heather's first husband, Ron Samuels, has been charged with orchestrating the shooting that left her a quadriplegic and almost killed her.

In October 1997, Heather stood before a judge in Boca Raton, Florida, and told him that her ex-husband was going to kill her. For years, Heather had been embroiled in an ugly custody battle with Samuels. Recently, she had been getting death threats and hang-ups by phone at her home, which she shared with her three children and new husband, John Grossman.

A week later, Heather and John were stopped at an intersection, on their way to lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Boca Raton, when a green Ford Thunderbird pulled up alongside their black Lincoln Continental. A man stuck a rifle out the window and shot Heather in the neck. Another bullet grazed John's chin and lodged in the door.

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I got home from work and turned the T-V on, which happened to be on Investigative Discovery..... I thought she looked familiar, and then they said her name.  My jaw dropped....Ok seriously, I'm freaking out a bit.  I dated her stepson during this period and actually was a part of their move to AZ.  I'll make this long story short. I witnessed first hand how crazy John Grossman was.... He got in my face while I was there.  Now over a decade later,  I finally feel some sort of validation.  No one believed or supported me when I was going through the short lived abusive relationship with the son of John Grossman. I only dated Matt for three month's.  He was an abusive boyfriend verbally, emotionally and physically.  Now I understand where he learned this behavior.  He strangled me while I was driving on the 5 freeway and he hit me in our apt (yes our apt I moved in after 1 month).  I want to take this opportunity to say F*&K you San Diego Police dept and anyone else that didn't believe or support me.  Hindsight is 20/20. Our roommate walked in on Matt abusing my cat's and he told me.  I moved out the next day. What doesn't kill you does make you stronger.  I am STRONG!


heather is so sweet, she's so gorgeus....

Terry C
Terry C

Poor girl. She sure had a penchant for picking the wrong men.

Makes me glad I am divorced and making it on my own.


Wow, I have a 13 year old son from my first marriage. My 2nd husband calls him an idiot, moron, loser, etc...Emotionally and verbally abuses him from sun up to sun down.Nevermind what he does to me. He calls me a fat ass, bitch, coo-coo. We have a 4 year old and a 1 year old together now. I hate myself for bringing children into a marriage with a father who berates, verbally abuses, emotionally abuses, and uses all 3 of these boys to make fun of and call their mom names. I worry my 13 year old will commit suicide. I wake up to my husband EVERY DAY slamming doors and being extremly hostile to my and my oldest son. Even my 4 year old just wants to me around me. I find myself trying to avoid this man whenever and however possible. I don't have the finances or education to raise 3 boys by myself. I am trapped and I HATE that my boys see this abuse on a daily basis. My husband went to therapy with me for 6 weeks and the entire practice could hear him screaming names at me for the 1 hour session. He is anxious and impulsive say the therapists. In order to not take responsibility for his actions, he tells everybody who will listen that I have some sort of mental problem and I need help. I am currently on anti-depressants and trying to muster up enough courage to leave this destructive man. Nobody we know ever sees his abuse because he ALWAYS makes sure it is done in our car or in our house. I have no witnesses. When we talked about divorce, he said "when I get through with you, you'll be lucky if you can afford a 1 bedroom apartment you dumb bitch". I wish I never re-married. I saw some very faint signs of this behavior just weeks before our wedding but never before that. I blamed it on stress of his job and school. The verbal, and mental abuse started when I was 6 mos. pregnant with our first child. We went to therapy for a few months and I really saw an improvement. That is when we decided to have another child. Things were great until he was about 6 weeks old. The abuse has tripled since then and our therapist says I am suffering from post traumatic syndrome. I wake up every 3 hours at night trying to clear my mind and just think about what to do. I count how many years I will have to endure this in order to see my kids grow up. I cannot feel anything anymore. I am numb and in survival mode. When I have an argument with my oldest son, I found myself repeating the same behavior that my husband inflicted on me. I hate what this environment has done to me and my children. My friends implore me to leave but I don't have the money for an attorney. My husband has already become violent with me by throwing household objects at me and ripping the sheets off our bed while I am in it. If I get a restraining order, it will just infuriate him and he has already taken steps to take my name off every account we have. I cannot even retain information and I am having memory problems too. I gained 10 lbs because I eat dinner after he has gone to sleep because I feel sick and nervous around him. Trying to keep him calm is a full time job. He calls everybody idiot behind their back and plays "the greatest guy" in front of everyone. I have no witnesses and no hope for any kind of future. By reading this article, I am only thankful that I am not confined to a wheelchair. Gives me something to think about.


@anonymous, you wrote this on 08/2009.  I am just wondering how are you and your children today?

Terry C
Terry C

Time to kick him to curb.

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