Monday, September 17, 2012

Autopsy in Joe Scarborough Country Leaves Out Key Detail About the Mysterious Death of Lori Klausutis

Joe Scarborough

The autopsy of Lori Klausutis makes no reference to a time of death. That raises new questions about an investigation that started when the 28-year-old woman's body was found in the office of then U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough in summer 2001.

Accidental death was the official finding in the Klausutis case, with a cardiac arrhythmia causing her to fall and hit her head on a desk. But the recent discovery of human remains at a storage unit in Pensacola, Florida, casts doubt on that ruling. That's because the storage unit was rented by Dr. Michael Berkland, the man who conducted the Klausutis autopsy 11 years earlier.

Berkland now faces a felony charge of improper storage of hazardous waste, and the grisly nature of the discovery calls his competence--and perhaps his sanity--into question.

Was the Lori Klausutis autopsy conducted in a professional manner? Was foul play prematurely ruled out? Should the investigation be reopened, perhaps with renewed scrutiny for Scarborough and others who might have had access to his office at the time?

Meanwhile, events surrounding the Klausutis story are taking on characteristics that are disturbingly reminiscent of the Don Siegelman case. More on that in a moment.

Scarborough has become a prominent figure in cable television news, serving as co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe. He also has strong ties to our area, as a graduate of the University of Alabama and confidant of former GOP Governor Bob Riley and his son, Homewood attorney Rob Riley.

Many Morning Joe viewers probably have forgotten, or never knew, that the body of a female aide once was found in Scarborough's Congressional office. Investigators quickly saw that a blow to the head, delivered accidentally or intentionally, was involved in Lori Klausutis' death. So it's hard to figure why the autopsy makes no reference to time of death. (See full autopsy report at the end of this post; the document originally appeared at

Why is that a key omission? Consider this from an online document titled "Determining Time of Death (TOD)":

Why is it important to know the time of death? 
•TOD can set the time of murder 
•Eliminate or suggest suspects 
•Confirm or disprove alibis

Why did Berkland not include this critical detail? It's not as if his report does not provide plenty of other details. He tells us that Klausutis was wearing a white thong on the day of her death. (Page 7.) He tells us that she had a "shaved genital region." (Page 8.) But no time of death?

The core of the autopsy report can be found in the comment section, pages 3-7. This probably is the central finding:

There is no doubt that the head injury is as a result of a fall, rather than a blow being delivered to the heading by a moving object. Lori has a classic "contrecoup" injury, or bruise to the brain, meaning that her brain was bruised on the opposite side from where the external force was applied. The left side of Lori's brain was bruised while the external abraded contusion (scratch and bruise) was in the right temple region. The contrecoup contusion results when a freely moving, mobile head strikes an unyielding, firm, fixed object in a fall, as in the floor, or in this case, the desk. This finding is in marked distinction from the "coup" contusion, or that injury which results from a moving object (example--a ball bat) that strikes a stationary head. In the coup injury, there is bruising of the brain on the same side as the external injury. There was no coup contusion in Lori Klausutis.

What would cause a seemingly healthy young woman, an avid runner, to collapse and lose consciousness, unable to break her fall? Berkland rules out some of the common causes of such an event--a pulmonary embolus, a brain hemorrhage, a ruptured aneurysm, drug issues. He concludes:

These facts leave only a cardiac arrhythmia as the reason to go unconscious and subsequently fall and strike the desk in an unprotected fashion. If Lori's heart was normal, it would be problematic to postulate a plausible reason for a cardiac arrhythmia in such a young person. However, her heart was not normal. The heart contained an abnormality (floppy mitral valve) that is known to result in cardiac ectopy and dangerous cardiac arrhythmias.

All of this sounds reasonable. But given recent events, can Michael Berkland's work be trusted? Why on earth was he keeping body parts in a storage unit? And did any of those parts once belong to Lori Klausutis?

While we're at it, let's consider the environment that has developed around the Klausutis story, some of which will sound familiar to those who have followed the Siegelman saga:

* A strange news blackout--Neither the Pensacola News Journal nor the Northwest Florida Daily News, the two major newspapers in the area, has tied Berkland and the human-remains story to the death of Lori Klausutis and her job as an aide to Joe Scarborough. How can it not at least be mentioned in coverage that Berkland is the same guy who essentially closed the books on the Klausuitis investigation. That kind of myopic mainstream news coverage has been present throughout the Siegelman case.

* A reporter disappears, then reappears--Reporter Thyrie Bland broke the human-remains story for the Pensacola newspaper and reported that Berkland had rented the storage unit. Then Bland vanished. Those who called the paper asking to speak to Bland were told he no longer worked there. He left in the midst of covering what might be one of the biggest stories of the year in the region? Apparently, the answer is yes. An online search reveals that Bland has resurfaced at, the online arm of Alabama newspapers in Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile. Bland appears to be focusing on Baldwin County, the area where Siegelman votes disappeared in the middle of the night, giving the 2002 gubernatorial election to Republican Bob Riley. Isn't it curious that a reporter who could uncover information leading to Joe Scarborough, winds up working at the heavily pro-Riley

* An Air Force connection--The obituary for Lori Klausutis reveals that her husband was T. J. Klautsutis of Niceville, Florida. A brief Web search reveals that Dr. Timothy J. Klausutis is a prominent member of the U.S. Air Force. One site indicates he conducts studies on navigation and miniature weapons systems for the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). What does this mean? We aren't sure,  but it reminds us that the Air Force had a number of curious ties to the Siegelman case. The prosecution team set up a shop, not at the U.S. Attorney's Office, but at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. Mark Fuller, the trial judge, was a primary owner in Doss Aviation, a Colorado-based company that lived largely off Air Force contracts.

What will happen next in the Michael Berkland story? Our guess is that the northwest Florida press will continue to ignore the obvious ties to the Lori Klausutis case. Berkland probably will plead guilty to some type of reduced charge, and the criminal case will go away quietly. Scarborough will remain as the host of Morning Joe until he decides the time is ripe for a return to politics. By then, the world will likely have forgotten all about Lori  Klausutis.

Meanwhile, northwest Florida and southeast Alabama continue to form perhaps the No. 1 "Corridor of Corruption" in the United States. The area is home to gun running, drug smuggling, shadowy military installations, slippery real-estate moguls, and a justice system that perhaps is best described as "evil." Powerful forces make a lot of money from the dysfunctional mess, and they don't want it to change.

They certainly do not want the death of Lori Klausutis to be revisited. And that means it probably won't be.

  Lori Klausutis Autopsy


Anonymous said...

Lori K's hubby is in the Air Force? Now, that's interesting.

Anonymous said...

From an article at American Politics Journals:

"According to her obituary in the Fort Walton Daily News, Lori had served as President and, later, Treasurer, for the Emerald Coast Young Republicans and as a aide to Congressman Scarborough, she was active during the Florida recounts."

Did she know something about the 2000 Bush-Gore recounts?

Here is link to article:

Anonymous said...


Thanks for an article filled with fascinating tidbits. Here's the biggest item to me . . . the reporter at PNJ broke the Berkland/human-remains story and bolts to

That blows my mind. Say it ain't so, Thyrie Bland.

Ray Ray said...

Lori Klausutis was murdered. No doubt in my mind. This is one of the better articles I've read on the case in quite a while. Thanks for keeping Lori's story alive.

Curious George said...

Do women routinely wear thongs to work?

Anonymous said...


I thought the same thing. A thong at work? I think she had been married 3-4 years, so seems like a strange choice for attire.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I don't think a thong at work is all that unusual. I see all sorts of cleavage and butt cracks at work. Comes with the territory.

Anonymous said...

"... Michael Berkland, it turns out, has a very interesting background himself. Recently relocated to Florida, it is a matter of public record that Dr. Berkland's medical license in the state of Missouri was revoked in 1998 as a result of Berkland reporting false information regarding brain tissue samples in a 1996 autopsy report. Berkland does not deny the charges ..

... It's also a matter of public record that he was suspended from his position as Medical Examiner in the State of Florida in July, 1999 ....

.. Repeated requests to Dr. Stephen Nelson, Chairman of the Medical Examiners Commission, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, have failed to verify that Dr. Berkland's suspension was lifted and that his licensure and disciplinary record are clear at the present time. Dr. Nelson was appointed Chairman of the Commission by Governor Jeb Bush ...

. . . It's an increasingly puzzling case. We are reminded of the famous Kitty Genovese case, in New York, in 1964, where a young woman pleaded for her life over the period of 30 minutes, while neighbors ignored her cries. The assailant returned three times to stab her. With Lori Klausutis, it seems possible that a corrupt North Florida establishment is determined to keep the lid on the case, even if that means silencing the news. And our esteemed news media, from the supposed mainstream liberal press stalwarts to the near delusional on air shouters of the channel that just reports so that you can decide, willingly turn the other way and ignore Lori Klausutis. But they continue to chatter endlessly in speculation over Chandra Levy. In so doing, they ignore the cries of truth, they deny their viewers access to the truth and they utterly, once and for all, betray our faith and trust in the media ..... American Politics Journal Publications, Inc. August 8, 2001 (APJP)

/rk, excellent LS, not to allow this to be another cover-up.

Three important points to the U.S. Constitution and due process law is indeed a stand in the balance of our equation.

There was not due process law in Lori's case.

"... Unfortunately, an autopsy cannot identify a cardiac arrhythmia. This is an electrical event of the heart which requires a live patient" ..

But, the "Dr. Berkland" ruled what he said he could not as reason for death, as the reason for her death.

There are also three points of specific 'due process practice' via the Sun Tzu dao teaching, for the energy of endocrine and then nervous systems, balancing.

Lori Klausutis' due process law was not honored. Her contract with life was terminated and it was not natural.

Natural law needs to be respected and the U.S. Constitution's intentional "shredding" must end.

NOTE: " ... an electrical event of the heart ..."

This is very, very important that the 'western' medical knows what is known, and does not actually "know," how to "understand."

Anonymous said...

LS, is the REAL infamous "TB" actually a post here?

Found this:

"... According to veteran journalist, H.J. Halterman, also a contributing editor for's Dispatches Magazine:

"By dragging the senator into the investigation, Ralston virtually guaranteed the end of FBI consideration of his past relationship with the murdered woman. If Ralston had ever been charged with the crime, he would only have had to point out that Sen. Bayh's brief but intimate relationship with Pixie was at least as strong a motive for murder as Ralston's own affair with the dead victim. Since Pixie had been a county coordinator for Sen. Bayh and had been seen in public with him, any such revelation could have left the senator's political future as dead as Pixie Grismore."

Halterman had some other comments about this tangled affair:

"Even though then-Sen. Bayh headed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and was in charge of the oversight committee that supposedly supervises the CIA, NSA and, oh yeah, the FBI, all their investigation couldn't catch the killer -- or killers. But at least the investigators kept Pat Ralston's romantic connection to the victim, and especially her association with former Sen. Bayh, as a closely held secret."

"... There is no statue of limitations on murder. Pixie's murder is considered a cold case and remains unsolved ...."

Lori is also written about at the site where "Pixie" is honored.

Why is Lori's case not murder and why did investigative journalist? "TB" not specialize forensic due process law in Lori's case?


Anonymous said...

Lori's husband was definitely in the air force and add to this fact that he NEVER made a fuss about her death or the reason for it. She weighed roughly 100 lbs. There is no way she could have fallen and injured herself in her office enough to cause the type of death as written. She would have to have climbed a tall building to fall that hard. She was an avid runner, healthy, all things pointed to good health except maybe her decision to have an affair with Joe Scarborough......

Anonymous said...

To anonymous: regarding thongs: Most women like to be comfortable at work; some think thongs are comfortable...personally I can't imagine that in any way that they are comfortable....must have been designed by a man.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 10:13--

Like you, I was under the impression that Lori Klausutis was petite, quite slender. Pretty sure I've read that in several reports. I was surprised to see that the autopsy report, on pages 7-8, says her body measures 67 inches (5-foot-7) and 149 pounds. A woman certainly can be athletic and in good shape at that size, but it appears Lori was a larger individual than I had thought. Either that, or the autopsy was conducted on the wrong person. In NW Florida, anything seems possible.

Spasmoda said...

I'm certainly not a pathologist, but wouldn't determining time of death be pretty much at the top of your list of "things to do" on an autopsy, especially on a death like this one?

I appreciate the info about pubic hair and a thong, but shouldn't that have been down the list a ways?

In this case, it sounds like Ms. Klausutis might have died at 7 p.m. or 7 a.m. or most any time in between. Isn't it kind of important, even if she had floppy mitral valve, to know roughly when she expired?

jeffrey spruill said...

It's "Chandra-Chandra-Chandra" with the occasional "Condit is just like Clinton" thrown in.
April 29, 2001:Linda Zamsky, Chandra Levy's aunt, found a recorded phone message from Chandra. Chandra said: My internship is over. I am packing my bags over the next ten days. I do not know what I am going to do this summer but I have some big news.

May 1, 2001:(At 4:15 a.m., a neighbor heard screams outside Levy's apartment building and called 911

Condit met with Vice President Cheney at 12:30 p.m. for a private meeting lasting about 20 minutes. The meeting was over by 1:00 PM

Freeh resigns
May 01, 2001

May 12,2006
Dear Mr. Spruill:
Thank you for contacting me to express your concems about Harley Lappin. I appreciate you apprising me of your views on this issue.

Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as this issue comes before me. please feel free to contact me in the future on other issues which may be of concem to you.
Robert C. "Bobby''Scott
Member of Congress

Friday, May 19, 2006
Bush hits the campaign trail today, as does his wife, First Lady Laura Bush. The president attends a 12:40 p.m. ET fundraiser for Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Virginia) in Virginia Beach and then heads off to a 3:45 p.m. ET event at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights.

Mr. Schnauzer is a prophet when he writes:"it will all go away & everything will remain the same."

Big Mike said...

Can we rule out that someone took Ms. Klasutis head and slammed it with great force against a desk? Wouldn't that cause the kind of "countercoup" injury that is described in the autopsy? Couldn't that cause a contusion on the right side of her brain and a fatal hemorrage on the left side, as described in the autopsy?

Berkland says that floppy mitral valve is the only possible explanation. But it seems to me that the scenario I describe also is possible, based on the description of her injury.

Maybe someone can correct my thinking and show I'm wrong somewhere. But I don't see anything in the autopsy that would rule this out.

David in S. Alabama said...


Here is an idea - buy one of those stryofoam heads used to store wigs on and find someone who can take the description in the autopsy report and sketch the wounds he reports to be on Lori Klausutis' head. Maybe you could find a med student at UAB to help you with this. Berkland's description doesn't addup to me, particularly when you compare it to where he later theorizes what happened. If you could find some of this early news reports of the the office where she works you will find that it doesn't exactly match his report. I seem to remember that she was found some distance from the desk he claims she hit her head on.

Another curious thing are the same news reports about failed attemts to talk to her relatives. It sounded like they wanted to talk but suddenly became deathly afraid to talk to the media.