Klausutis' death not suspicious

The medical examiner said he is waiting to rule on the death until blood test results are finished.

By AMBER BOLLMAN, Daily News Staff Writer

The medical examiner investigating the death of Lori Klausutis said Saturday there is absolutely no evidence that the 28-year-old employee of U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough was a victim of "foul play."

Associate Medical Exam-iner Dr. Michael Berkland will announce how Klausutis died on Wednesday.

He is waiting for blood test results and is continuing his investigation into her medical history.

"It would be foolish for me to release the cause of death without the toxicology results in my hand because that one little piece of the puzzle can make all the difference in the investigation," said Berkland, who completed an autopsy on Klausutis' body Saturday. "But there is still no suspicion of foul play."

Klausutis, of Niceville, was found dead on the floor of Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach branch office at about 8 a.m. Friday when a couple arrived at the office for an appointment. Berkland said it is likely that Klausutis died sometime Thursday afternoon or evening.

"She had been dead for quite awhile before she was found," Berkland said Saturday. "Based on the physical evidence, I feel comfortable moving the time of her death back to the previous day."

Klausutis' death was likely accidental or the result of natural causes. Berkland said it is unlikely that her death was a suicide, but will not rule that out until the blood tests are returned.

"There is no evidence at all that this was an intentional act, but we can't rule it out just yet," Berkland said.

Toxicology reports, performed at a laboratory in Gainesville, will reveal the presence of any drugs or other unnatural substances in Klausutis' body, Berkland said.

"I've been cautioning people against saying she died of natural causes because there could have been something present in her system that we can't find until we get those results," he added.

Berkland said Klausutis had been involved in a serious car accident as a teenager and still suffered from some lingering medical problems, but it is unknown whether those conditions played a role in her death.

Many of her medical records are from another state and Berkland is waiting to review those as well before making an announcement.

Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Steve Hogue said he is also awaiting toxicology and medical examiner's reports, though the department's preliminary investigation revealed nothing suspicious inside Scarborough's office.

Officers found no signs of a struggle, break-in or robbery, Hogue said.

Klausutis had worked as a constituent services coordinator for Scarborough, R-Pensacola, since May 1999. Her responsibilities included handling appointments and walk-in visits from local residents.

One other employee, Lois Hoyt, worked from Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach office. Hoyt was not in the office at the time of Klausutis' death and could not be reached for comment Saturday. Friends of Klausutis said that they believed Hoyt had been out of state on vacation for several days.

Scarborough also could not be reached for additional comment Saturday after expressing regrets about Klausutis' death the day before.

Lori's husband, T.J. Klausutis, would not comment on his wife's death Saturday, but friends remembered her as a woman with a consistently positive attitude about life.

"She was a very diligent person who cared a lot about her job, her schooling, but most of all, about her family," said Mary Potthast, a friend who served alongside Klausutis on the executive board of the Emerald Coast Young Republicans.

Klausutis had served as president of the Young Republicans but stepped down last month to devote more time to her education. She continued her involvement with the organization as treasurer.

"She was always sweet, bubbly, caring and considerate," said Potthast, who had known Klausutis for almost four years.

Potthast said Klausutis, an avid runner who frequently competed in races with the Northwest Florida Track Club, was "the picture of health."

Though Potthast said Klausutis had mentioned having mild seizures during her youth, she didn't believe Klausutis was taking any medications on a regular basis.

In addition to her work with the Young Republicans, Klausutis was also active in the Fort Walton Beach Jaycees and the Saint Mary's Catholic Church choir.

Joey Ferreira, music director at the church, said Klausutis was beloved within the choir and the congregation.

"Everytime I saw her, she had a smile on her face," Ferreira said. "She helped out with everything and was always very people-friendly."

Ferreira remembered one particular Mass when the priest singled Klausutis out for having "the voice of an angel," drawing applause and praise from the entire congregation.

"I really can't think of anyone else I've known who was more pleasant to be around," Ferreira said.