Paralyzed in Paradise

Just when things couldn't get any worse for Heather Grossman–they did

• In about May 2002, John confronted Heather's nurse, Denise Foster, for being in the main quarters of the kitchen, getting Heather some breakfast. "John then went back to Heather, stuck his middle finger into her face touching her nose, and told her, Fuck you, I'm sick of this shit. I don't want your nurses in my house.'"

Heather and her nurse both related this story to police; Heather had told the nurse about it at the time.

Recommended charges: Aggravated Assault, Harassment, Aggravated Domestic Violence and Vulnerable Adult Abuse.

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.

• On June 2, 2002, John locked Heather, her daughter and nurse Denise Foster into Heather's living quarters, refusing to bring them bottled water so Heather could take her pills.

"John then became belligerent toward Foster, and stopped her from calling 911 by grabbing the phone away from her twice."

Recommended charges: Obstructing Criminal Investigation, Harassment and Aggravated Domestic Violence.

In addition, the police heard from Heather and her nurses about dozens of incidents that did not result in charges being recommended. Cathy Danzinger told police she had seen John bring the children to tears several times, roughhousing with them, and refusing to stop, and had seen bruises on them.

Nurse Denise Foster told police that one night Heather related that John had slapped her in the face with a magazine, during a fight in which he told her to lie to CPS. Foster heard John yelling at Heather, but did not witness the fight.

Five adults -- Heather's nurses and assistants -- told police they had seen John spit on Heather. All three children said they had, as well. Cathy Danzinger tells New Times she wiped spit from Heather's face. She didn't see John spit at Heather, but says Heather doesn't have the lung capacity to spit on her own forehead.

Heather and her kids say that once, when her daughter didn't clean up after the family's dog, John bagged the dog feces and threw the bags at Heather.

Heather's personal assistant Suzanne Price told police she saw John push Heather's wheelchair against the wall and make her wait for 30 minutes for a nurse to come even though she'd said she needed her lungs suctioned. Price also told police she'd seen John grab Heather's son by the ear and drag him through the house crying because he was not wearing a jacket.

On March 27, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to prosecute John Grossman.

In a brief notice sent to Paradise Valley police, Doug Schwab, the prosecutor assigned to the case, wrote, "There is no dispute that Ms. Grossman has suffered through tragic events and found herself in a dysfunctional environment."

But, he continued, Heather Grossman's credibility was in jeopardy because she had previously denied abuse when asked about it by Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services and the Paradise Valley police. Schwab also cited a lack of "direct evidence" of abuse and said the police interviews didn't back up the charges recommended.

In addition, Schwab cited a document provided to Paradise Valley police by John Grossman's attorney: a court order from Heather's first divorce. Heather was held in contempt in Florida for lying to the court during divorce proceedings. According to the citation, Heather lied when she told the court her ex-husband had not discussed her having an eating disorder with her doctor; lied when she said she did not have plastic surgery; and lied about where she stayed during a 1992 visit to Florida.

Heather pleaded not guilty; she was sentenced to 48 hours in jail for contempt.

That incident further mars Heather's credibility, Schwab wrote.

Last week, the County Attorney's Office released a 17-page internal report by Schwab, detailing his reasons for turning down the case. He elaborated on the issues listed above, and also mentioned that John Grossman's attorney had provided an interview with one nurse who said that during the time she worked for the Grossmans, she saw no abuse.

Grossman's attorney, Fred Petti, acknowledged that he conducted a private investigation that he shared with the County Attorney, but refuses to discuss it or provide any written documentation to New Times.

"I was very surprised that no charges were filed," Detective Cole says. He says he knew the county attorney might not agree with all of Paradise Valley's conclusions, but figured that some charges would be filed.

"There are several people who have claimed to have witnessed abuse in one form or another. That makes me wonder why charges weren't filed."

Carolyn Ham wonders the same thing.

Ham is a staff attorney at the Battered Women's Justice Project. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the organization offers training and advice for the best practices in dealing with domestic violence. Ham previously worked for the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, on cases involving abuse and neglect in nursing homes. She was also a county prosecutor.

She reviewed the 43-page narrative prepared by the Paradise Valley Police Department.

"God, I'd love to have this case," Ham says. "When I read this, I thought, More than one witness? This is heavenly.' . . . The woman is not mentally deficient in any way. She's a credible witness. And then you've got all these people who saw it or saw the bruises. I was astonished."

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