Details emerge in aide's death

A police report reinforces the finding that Lori Klausutis' death was accidental.

By TOM McLAUGHLIN, Daily News Staff Writer 8-29-2001

Two Fort Walton Beach police officers who witnessed the autopsy of Lori Klausutis, an aide to U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough, reported her skull had been fractured.

The extent of the head injury has never been reported by those investigating the July 20 death of the 28-year-old at Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach office. The body, which had apparently lain on the floor all night, was discovered about 8:30 a.m. by a couple arriving to discuss a work permit issue with Klausutis.

The popular young aide's death was ruled accidental.

The autopsy information, noted by Officer Stephen Sequeira and crime scene expert Dusty Rhodes, was found in a Fort Walton Beach Police Department report turned over Monday to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Police Chief Steve Hogue said he decided to open the investigative file on the Klausutis case after a public records request was made by Daily News Editor Ralph Routon.

The skull fracture didn't change the findings about what killed Klausutis, according to Associate Medical Examiner Michael Berkland.

A hairline fracture like the one found is completely consistent with an unconscious person's fall and totally inconsistent with a physical assault, he said.

"We know for a fact she wasn't whacked in the head because of the nature of the injury," Berkland said.

The blow to the head Klausutis received when she fell onto a desk at the congressman's office would have caused a significant injury, Berkland said, but he termed it "just another symptom" of her death.

Cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythms, halted Klausutis' heart and stopped her breathing, he said. The blow to the head contributed to the death because blood pooled at the point where the fracture occurred.

Berkland's autopsy report has not been made public, though a public records request has been made for the document. Berkland said he would respond to the request today.

The 150-page police report made public Monday contained neither smoking guns nor hidden agendas on the part of investigators.

The Klausutis death has been greatly speculated upon by Internet users.

Some interesting items found - or not found - in the report include:

Tiffany Bates, an aide in Scarborough's Pensacola office, was the last person known to have spoken to Klausutis, at shortly before 5 p.m. on July 19.

Bates congratulated Klausutis on an upcoming job interview and Klausutis told her she wasn't feeling well.

Reached in Pensacola Tuesday, Bates declined to comment. She said members of Scarborough's staff had been directed to refer all questions about the Klausutis case to Scarborough spokesman Miguel Serrano.

 An admission from Don Graham, owner of D-Train security company, that he "may have missed" checking to see if the doors at Scarborough's office were locked when patrolling the office complex between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on July 19.

Graham had originally told investigators that the congressman's office doors were locked, its lights out and that there were no cars parked in front on the night Klausutis died.

An employee at the International House of Pancakes, arriving for work at about 5 a.m., reported seeing Klausutis' car parked in front of Scarborough's office and said lights inside the building were on.

Graham could not be reached for comment.

Juanita Marie Bergmann, a Destin resident and former nurse, and her husband, Andreas Bergmann, were the couple who found Klausutis' body.

Juanita Bergmann checked the pulse of the young woman while her husband called 911. She said she saw no indication of a head injury and no indication of foul play.

"She'd obviously had a seizure," Bergmann said. "My assumption was she had a seizure and it caused her to go into cardiac arrest."

Bergmann did say she wonders why there hasn't been more public discussion of the Klausutis case, but respects the decision of the victim's family to accept the findings of the police and medical examiner.

"If they're comfortable with what's being said I can accept that," she said. "They're the ones who know what's best."

Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 435, or