Paralyzed in Paradise

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

Perhaps not all of the recommended charges apply, she concedes, but "I certainly felt like there was enough to go ahead with several felonies."

Margaret Nosek, the executive director of the Center for Research on Women With Disabilities and a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, also reviewed the police narrative. "In my judgment, the charges of domestic violence, kidnapping, reckless endangerment, etc., are completely consistent with the evidence and eyewitness accounts," she says. "[Police] may wish, however, to consider a charge more serious than reckless endangerment. When someone refuses to perform a life-critical task like bronchial suctioning with the intent to injure an individual who is physically unable to defend herself or perform the task unaided, that is quite a bit closer to homicide than it is to endangerment."

Carolyn Ham acknowledges the credibility issues associated with the initial denial of abuse, the contempt charges, even the fact that often the nurses didn't witness the abuse firsthand, but learned of it from Heather soon afterward and saw bruises and scratches. Even so, she says, she would proceed with the case.

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.

"Independent people who were nurses in the home who witnessed the kind of treatment of her, who witnessed the bruising afterward," are critical to proving the case, Ham says. "There's so much corroboration from the other people, who had no motive to lie."

She adds, "Of course, the beauty of it is [Heather] can't move. So how does she get these bruises? We can establish he was with her. And then a short time later, the bruises show up."

But Rachel Mitchell, the bureau chief of sex crimes and family violence for the Maricopa County Attorney's southeast division, and Doug Schwab's boss, says accounts of what happened differ enough to make proof difficult. And without a likelihood of prosecution, her office won't take a case.

Mitchell acknowledges that domestic violence victims' testimony often changes, but says what usually happens is that an alleged victim will make an allegation, then recant. In Heather Grossman's case, the opposite happened -- and Heather didn't come forward with allegations until after she'd filed for divorce. Heather says that's because she feared for her safety and her children's safety, but Mitchell says it speaks to her credibility -- or lack thereof.

Fred Petti, John Grossman's attorney, alludes to the same issue in the only statement he made on behalf of his client.

"What happened to Heather and John on October 14, 1997 [the day they were shot], was tragic. It forever changed both their lives. Sadly, their marriage is coming to an end. And in the context of those divorce proceedings and the suit for money damages, allegations of abuse have been leveled against John. John categorically denies those allegations," Petti says.

Cole says that in situations such as these, many times prosecutors will come back to police and ask for additional information. That didn't happen this time; he got a flat refusal and the recommendation that he file misdemeanor charges in town court.

But in a letter dated March 27, Schwab wrote to Heather, telling her of the decision and recommending that she send any further information she might have to Cole. Cole now says he wishes he had known of this sooner, because he could have continued his investigation.

Schwab also told Heather that county attorney staff would meet with her but she would have to contact the office by April 10. Ralph Stephens says he called the office on April 9 but has yet to get a call back.

Mitchell says she didn't know that Heather was trying to reach her office, and still would be happy to meet with her.

An April 9 letter to Governor Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard has also garnered no response, Ralph Stephens says. Dan Levey, adviser to the governor on victims, says he did speak with Stephens by phone, and that while he didn't follow up with a letter, gave Heather's father some referral numbers for victim assistance organizations.

Now, it is getting very late in the process -- the statute of limitations will run out on June 2.

Heather Grossman and her parents refuse to give up.

They have driven around town to the restaurants Heather and John used to frequent, looking for wait staff who recalled John abusing Heather in public.

Matt Kuhn, a former manager at the Bamboo Club in Phoenix, remembers the Grossmans well. They were frequent customers, he tells New Times.

"I think it was obvious to a lot of people who spent time [waiting on the Grossmans] that this was most likely an abusive relationship," Kuhn says. He says he never witnessed any physical abuse, but did hear John talk down to Heather and berate her.

"I really like Heather, and just the way that he treated her, particularly in the condition that she is in, was really horrible," Kuhn says. "I certainly did see some things that I would consider psychological abuse, but you know, I'm not an expert."

Kuhn says he doesn't recall specifics.

Heather's marriage to John is far from over. The Grossmans are in the middle of a bitter divorce, and Heather has filed a civil suit against John for alleged abuse. The divorce case was sealed at John's request (Heather says she was never asked about it, and is trying to fight to have it reopened) and John has now asked that the civil case be sealed as well.

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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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