Paralyzed in Paradise

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

The men in the Thunderbird were caught easily. They cut a deal with local law enforcement, turning in the man they said had hired them: Ron Samuels.

Samuels was eventually indicted for the crime but has never been brought to trial. He had fled to Mexico, where he was sent to prison for cocaine possession, a charge unrelated to the Florida incident. When he gets out this November, authorities say they hope to have him extradited to Florida where he'll face charges in the Grossman shootings.

John underwent several reconstructive operations on his jaw.

Heather and John Grossman, after the shooting that left her paralyzed.
Heather and John Grossman, after the shooting that left her paralyzed.
Heather and John Grossman, on their wedding day.
Heather and John Grossman, on their wedding day.

Heather barely survived. She spent weeks in the intensive care unit of a Florida hospital, and when she was flown to a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, it was in the middle of the night under the assumed name of Kaufman. The family lived in secrecy for months, with bodyguards.

In the spring of 1998, the Kaufman/Grossman family left Colorado for La Jolla, California. John had wanted to return to Florida, Heather recalls, but the police said it was too dangerous. Samuels had not yet been indicted. La Jolla proved too expensive, even for trust-fund-fed John, and the weather was chilly for Heather, whose injury keeps her constantly cold.

So Heather, John and her kids -- a 10-year-old boy and 8-year-old twins -- moved to a $1.6 million home in Paradise Valley, not far from the winter home of John's father, Bud Grossman.

John had yelled at her and the kids from the start of the relationship, Heather now says, but the abuse really didn't get bad until they moved to Arizona. She's still not sure why.

One thing is certain. Heather Grossman has not been lucky in love. She sits in the kitchen of her Paradise Valley home -- not hers for long; the court has ordered her to move out by October -- and watches her kids play in the backyard pool one afternoon in late April, a few days after her 37th birthday.

The home is gorgeous in a prepackaged way, all marble and flagstone. The furnishings -- taupe throughout -- look like they were bought all at once, and about the only decorating accent is shelves of fancy clowns. Outside, the grass is a perfect, blinding bright green, trimmed with purple bougainvillea.

Heather's pretty blond hair is arranged in bangs over the cloth band that straps her head to the back of her wheelchair; a chenille blanket rests on her lap. She is still beautiful in the same way that Christopher Reeve -- the actor who suffers from an almost identical spinal injury -- is still handsome. Her cheeks are sunken and her pale blue eyes wide in a trapped face. Her voice is surprisingly strong, although it takes a while for Heather to get the words out, as she has to pause often to breathe, which she does with the help of a ventilator.

She clearly appreciates life's niceties. Her long nails are manicured a perfect salmon, a Louis Vuitton bag is attached to the back of her wheelchair and her earrings bear the double-C logo of the designer Chanel.

Not bad for a girl from Anoka, Minnesota. Heather Marie Stephens' roots are decidedly middle-class, she says. Her parents worked assorted jobs for years until recently getting into shoe sales. (They market rubber clogs.) Heather was a competitive gymnast and a cheerleader in high school. The family, which includes younger sister Tiffany, traveled a lot when the girls were young, and further travel was Heather's main life goal. She studied international business at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, leaving to become a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines.

Heather met Ron Samuels on a flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. She'd never made a date on a flight before, Heather says, but Ron was so nice. Both were immediately smitten, she says. He lived in New York, and they had a long-distance relationship for a couple of years, before marrying and moving to Pensacola, Florida, where Samuels bought a Toyota dealership.

Seventeen years her senior, Ron was eager for children. Heather had her first immediately, quickly followed by the twins.

Ralph and Florence Stephens were initially skeptical about Ron, who was so much older than Heather -- and considerably wealthier.

"You know, this was a young girl from Minnesota," says Florence, who has a no-nonsense attitude and blue eyes that match her daughter's. Both of Heather's parents speak with the lilting accent of characters from the movie Fargo.

"We grow up different," Florence continues. "And I think basically Heather was swept off her feet by this guy who could buy what she wanted, take her where she wanted to go. We weren't overly impressed, but he tried really hard. He tried really hard to make us like him."

And for a while, they did, Ralph says, recalling Ron as "genuinely generous. He bought Heather wonderful, beautiful things. He took her all over the world."

Amazingly, the Stephenses have nicer things to say about Ron Samuels -- the man who allegedly had their daughter shot -- than they do about John Grossman. Ralph says he had a bad feeling about John from the start.

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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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