Las Vegas jury hears pro golfer's suicide note
LAS VEGAS (AP) - A suicide note left by professional golfer Erica Blasberg in 2010 blames no one, expresses deep personal unhappiness and describes a mixture of drugs kicking in before ending with the words, "love and kisses, eternity, Erica."
"I'm sad and don't want to be doing this right now," the 25-year-old wrote in the letter that was read to a jury on Wednesday. "Sorry for all the people I've hurt doing this, but please understand how miserable and sad I am, and that I feel no way of escaping it."
The note provided a dramatic opening to a civil wrongful death, medical malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty trial against Blasberg's then-physician, occasional golfing buddy and personal friend, Dr. Thomas Hess.
Blasberg's parents accuse Hess of having had an inappropriate relationship with her and failing to provide proper medical care before she died. Their lawsuit, filed in 2011 in Clark County District Court, seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Hess, now 46, denies having a romantic relationship with Blasberg. He pleaded guilty in late 2010 to a misdemeanor obstruction charge for removing the suicide note and medications after discovering Blasberg's body, and was sentenced to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service.
Blasberg's parents' attorney, Nick Crosby, told the jury Wednesday that circumstantial evidence and series of seemingly secretive acts surrounding their communication point to Hess' responsibility in the death.
"This is a case about a doctor who let his personal interest get in the way of his professional responsibility," Crosby said, "and my clients' daughter died as a result."
Two days before she died, Blasberg and Hess played golf at the exclusive Southern Highlands Golf Club outside Las Vegas, where both had free memberships, Crosby said. They then watched a televised hockey game at a lounge at a resort hotel in Henderson, where they were seen touching hands and with Hess' hand on Blasberg's leg.
The married Hess bought a prepaid cellular telephone the next day, which he used only to call Blasberg, and Crosby said evidence would show that Hess left an obviously drunk Blasberg at her home the night before she died.
"He left her in a compromised state," Crosby said. "He was torn between leaving Erica and getting in trouble with his wife."
Crosby said phone records show that Blasberg tried to call Hess about 3:30 a.m. the following morning - a Sunday, Mother's Day - and that Hess tried to call Blasberg eight times that morning and nine times that afternoon before going to her home in Henderson and finding her body.
Blasberg was in bed with a dust mask over her mouth and a plastic bag over her head, secured by rubber bands.
The Clark County coroner determined that she committed suicide by asphyxiation, with a toxic combination of medications in her system.
Crosby told the jury that Hess' then-wife texted Hess that she was "sad, scared and disappointed" to learn of Blasberg's death and that she suspected from his distress the night before that Hess had been ending a relationship with someone.
But defense attorney Kim Irene Mandelbaum told the jury that there was no evidence that Hess killed Blasberg or that the two had a romantic relationship.
Blasberg had been seeing a psychiatrist for depression, but Hess didn't know that, the defense attorney said.
Hess "stupidly removed the suicide note and a blister pack of Mexican medications, Xanax," Mandelbaum said.
Hess has maintained he was trying to spare Blasberg's family from anguish.
Blasberg's note - read in court on Wednesday by Mandelbaum - referred once to "many people who will know who they are when this is read," and twice referred to stockpiling over several months the drugs she was taking.
"I blame no one for the drugs I am taking this evening," it says.
None of the medications had been prescribed by Hess, Mandelbaum said.
"I know her parents want to blame Dr. Hess," the defense attorney said. "But there's no one to blame. Certainly, not Dr. Hess."
"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Blasberg was from Corona, California, where she was coached by her father and became a junior golf standout.
She was an All-American in 2003 and 2004 at the University of Arizona and turned professional in June 2004. Her best year was 2008, when she earned a career-best tie for eighth at the SBS Open in Hawaii and more than $113,000 in winnings, the LPGA said.