Autopsy report on aide released

The findings confirm Lori Klausutis died after falling and hitting her head on a desk.

By JEFF AYRES, Daily News Staff Writer 9-1-2001

Saying he wants to "extinguish the fires of speculation" surrounding the death of an aide to retiring U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough, Associate State Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Berkland released the autopsy report of Lori Klausutis on Friday.

The 18-page report is in line with previous statements Berkland made concerning how Klausutis, 28, died in Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach branch office sometime during the evening on July 19.

Berkland said he hopes the details of the autopsy report will stop rampant speculation on the Internet and elsewhere concerning Klausutis' death.

The report states that Klausutis' death was caused by her head striking the edge of a desk in the office.

The fall that caused her to strike the desk was likely triggered by an undiagnosed heart condition known as floppy mitral valve disease, which is typically marked by abnormal heart rhythms. The affected valve divides the heart's left-side chambers.

Klausutis suffered a hairline fracture of the skull, but Berkland has said the fracture was consistent with a fall, not an assault.

The report also backed up Berkland's previous statements that Klausutis died accidentally.

"There is no doubt that the head injury is a result of a fall rather than a blow being delivered to the head by a moving object," Berkland wrote in the report.

To illustrate the statement, Berkland pointed out that Klausutis had bruising on the left side of her brain, and some scratching and bruising on the right side of her head.

"This finding is in marked distinction" from an "injury which results from a moving object (example - a baseball bat) that strikes a stationary head," the report states.

Had Klausutis been struck with a bat or other blunt object, her external and internal injuries would have been on the same side of her head, Berkland continued.

Berkland said that, to his knowledge, Klausutis never visited a doctor for irregular heart patterns and had no long-term medical problems aside from lingering injuries from an auto accident years ago.

The mitral valve condition is rare, occurring in only 5 percent of the population, including young adults like Klausutis. But it can be fatal, literally bringing the heart to a standstill in extreme cases.

The report mentions two people, including a postal worker, who stopped by Scarborough's office the day before Klausutis was found. Both said Klausutis told them she was "anxious and did not feel quite right," according to the report.

Neither person was named in the report.

Klausutis' body was found shortly after 8 a.m. on July 20 by a couple who had an appointment at Scarborough's office. She worked for Scarborough for two years.

Scarborough, a high-profile, popular Republican congressman, announced earlier this year that he was retiring from his office to spend more time with his two boys.

Staff Writer Jeff Ayres can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 444, or