Monday, June 23, 2008

New Life for a Closed Case

by Diane Fanning

Military investigators, the justice of the peace, and the medical examiner all agreed—Colonel Philip Shue committed suicide. The circumstances of Shue’s demise always made me skeptical. Now, University of Alabama and they were ready to move. They were both excited about this new development in their lives.

That morning before he left his house, he took his vitamins and talked about coming home early to cut the grass and clean the pool. He said he wanted to spruce the place up before they put it on the market.

Police were tightlipped about their investigation but did say that Shue apparently was “abducted and somehow abused.”
Kendall County Sheriff’s investigator went so far as to say that Shue was not in control of the car when it crashed.

No one was surprised when
Bexar County Medical Examiner Vincent DiMaio issued an autopsy report declaring that Shue died from head injuries, including multiple skull fractures, caused by the collision. But many were stunned when DiMaio said that Shue’s wounds were self-inflicted and he committed suicide by deliberately running off the road. Tracy Shue, Philip’s friends and colleagues including the fellow psychiatrist who provided counseling to Shue refused to believe that conclusion. Nonetheless, the grand jury backed the medical examiner’s finding.

Tracy hired Forensic Pathologist
Cyril Wecht to perform a second autopsy. He released his report in April 2004. He wrote: “I do not agree that this death can be simply labeled as a suicide. It is more likely that another person(s) played a role in his death.”

There was a cell phone in the car and Shue did not call for help. DiMaio believed this reinforced the ruling of suicide. Wecht contradicted that assessment writing that the face of the phone was bloody indicating that Shue may have attempted to use it.

Tracy filed claims against the two insurance companies who carried policies that named ex-wife
Nancy Shue as the beneficiary.

Finally, in June 2008, her negligence claim against USAA Life Insurance Company entered the courtroom. In civil court, Kendall County Court at Law Judge Bill Palmer, after listening to testimony and reviewing 2,100 exhibits, cleared the insurance company of negligence but he also issued a statement that Shue’s death was a homicide.

As Tracy left the courtroom, she said: “That’s all I ever wanted. It’s been all about the truth.”

Now District Attorney Bruce Curry needs to decide if he is going to bring the Judge before the grand jury to explain his reasoning. It’s time to re-open the investigation into Philip Shue’s death.


Cynthia Hunt said...

Diane, Thank you for bringing this to the attention of all of us. In my opinion, this kind of issue is at the heart of great journalism and great non-fiction writing. You are trying to help right a wrong by bringing the wrong to the attention of the masses. I sincerely hope you cause a stir that leads to justice for Shue and his family. You should email your blog to every TV station in San Antonio. Mondays are notoriously slow news days. If you email them your blog before the morning meeting at 9...they will all probably jump on it if they haven't covered it previously. You may get them to cover it again if there's new info that you know that they don't. Please keep us updated.

Leah said...

I remember this and I use to wonder why nobody seemed anxious to try and find out who murdered him. I never really believed his ex was responsible but that someone wanted to point in that direction to keep police from looking else where. I hope this sparks a renewed interest in the case.

Kathryn Casey said...

Great post, Diane. Really interesting. Hope there are answers soon!

Diane Fanning said...

I was always surprised, too, Leah. The suspicions of foul play held by law enforcement seem to me to be strong enough to give the medical examiner reason to say that the cause of death was undetermined.
Thank you, Cynthia and Kathryn. As you both know, sometimes suicide pronouncements are impossible for family and friends to believe even when the situation is obvious. This case, however, seems to go beyond that.

TxMichelle said...

I have never heard of this case!
I would like more information on it. I hope someone does do an indepth look. There were so many questions running through my head while I read it.

How do they plan on going forward with this case after so many years have passed. Most of the leads or information is probably lost.

Why did someone send emails stating his life was in danger and from who or what?

How could the medical examiner rule suicide or accident with duct tape on the man and his nipples cut off? That is just ridiculous.
Also what type of killer (since the indication is that someone knew of his impending demise) would do that to him? Was it monies owed?
I can't see an ex-wife doing that for insurance unless it was a two for one. In other words not only was she set to get the money, but also so payback for certain wrongs from their relationship.

That is a very sadistic death.

Now you got my curiousity piqued.

Diane Fanning said...

My curiousity has been piqued by this case from the very beginning. It makes no sense to me. He was a psychiatrist. Could it be connected to a patient? I hope they open this case and get to the bottom of the anonymous notes and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the condition of his body.

TxMichelle said...

I could certainly see how you became interested in this case.

I am not sure I read this correctly. Did the current wife get an insurance payout? What was it that USAA did that they were sued for negligence?

TxMichelle said...

I could certainly see how you became interested in this case.

I am not sure I read this correctly. Did the current wife get an insurance payout? What was it that USAA did that they were sued for negligence?

Leah said...

His current wife sued USAA because they didn't drop his policy naming his ex beneficiary. She actually thought she could get the benefits from it was well, if they thoguht she had something to do with his death. I think the current wife was behind his death, personally. She was a nurse and she could have easily known how to cut him. The ex only had the insurance policy because she had custody of their son and the policy [which is common in divorce cases] was for money to raise the son should he die. The current wife had the most to gain by his death.

I didn't mean to butt in but a friend of mine who is a retired major here where I live now was good friends with Phillip before he died. Maybe I can talk him into post here with what he knows.

TxMichelle said...

AAHH I see now. I have USAA and they are an excellent company. That is why I was surprised that she was sueing them for negligence. It would seem to me that the policy was really for the boy and the current wife shouldn't have gotten it anyway. Besides, didn't the article state that there were policies for both wives? That seems pretty greedy to me.

i would like to hear from your friend.

Leah said...

Right, but there is a law in Texas that will allow the closest of kin to collect on a life insurance policy if that beneficiary was the cause of his death. IMHO, Tracy [the current wife and widow] accused the ex of being responsible for Shue's death so she could collect on that policy as well as the others that she was beneficiary of, because she was next of kin.

In my divorce, clear back in 1986, my ex has to maintain a $100,000 LI policy with me as beneficiary until my son is 19, then his dad can change the beneficiary to our son, if he so desires. He has to carry this policy until our son is 25 or gets his bachelors degree, then he can cancel it or convert it or whatever he wants to do.

Leah said...

I should also mention that I have to carry one as well for $100,000 with his dad as beneficiary, incase I died and his dad had to finish raising him. I did, on my son's 19th birthday name him as beneficiary on that policy/

Diane Fanning said...

I do not personally know any of the people involved in this story. But my understanding was that in the beginning the wife expressed what was believed to be sincere suspicion of the ex-wife. The wife did, however, remove the ex-wife from the lawsuit. The wife's contention was that she continued the lawsuit against USAA as a way of getting to the truth of what happened to Philip.
I know some people suspect the wife as Leah does and that could be right. However, usually, if you are the perpetrator, you wouldn't be questioning the suicide conclusion made by the original medical examiner. The wife did hire Cyril Wecht to do a second autopsy.
But sometimes, perps do inexplicable things so I am pretty much open to any outcome. It just seems obvious to me that more investigation needs to be done.

Leah said...

I don't see how the lawsuit would get at the truth of what happened to Phillip. I figured that maybe there wouldn't be entitled to all or any of the LI benefits if he committed suicide and that was the reason for her to have it changed to homicide. From what I gather it was Tracy's actions after Phillips death, towards his parents, the military, his son and ex, etc that led people to believe she was behind his murder. At first, most everyone thought her just a grieving widow. But who knows, it could have been a jealous colleague. But, it was certainly someone who knew him well.

Diane Fanning said...

One of the pieces of information that came out in civil court was the testimony before the grand jury. Before that it had been sealed. And she got a proclamation in the courtroom that Philip's death was the result of homicide. According to media reports, Tracy was very pleased with the outcome.

Anonymous said...

The grand jury testimony did not come out in court because the appeals on that issue were working their way up the courts.

The circumstances did sound extremely suspicious, however, the agencies who investigated this case believed that Mr.Shue's death was a suicide (because his actions caused his death by purposefully wrecking his car) but that his intention was to further his claims that someone was trying to kill him. The investigators believed that he intended to wreck, but the extent of the damage went beyond his control. However, in the legal word, causation is important--he intentionally wrecked, caused his death, therefore it's a "suicide" for the purposes of the medical examiner and the justice of the peace.

His car was seen veering off the road directly toward obstacles twice by passers-by. He pulled back onto the road both times (similar to hesitation marks when someone cuts themselves). He was killed from head injuries from the car accident in a way that he would not have anticipated in the way he ran into the tree--his car spun around and the driver's side took impact.

The duct tape (one strand) around his combat boots was not pulled tight or strained, neither was the duct tape around his wrists. It did not look as though it had been pulled or cut, it was just there on his wrists and ankles.

The cuts on his torso included hesitation marks. There was some kind of pain killer on his skin where his nipples were removed. Why would a murderer cut these off anyway and why apply pain killer first?

He had a long history of mental illness and had been making claims for years to the military that someone was after him. People that knew him described him in terms of conspiracy theorist, mentally unwell, with a wife who liked to live beyond their means. He took his mental and medical records away from the base before he died and noone could find them after the death.

The house that was purchased right before his death was well beyond their means and extravagant compared to the home they currently lived in.

His will was changed and signed the day before his death to disinherit his ex-wife and son--a fact that his widow was dishonest about when talking to the police.

I don't know what really happened, just wanted to throw in some more facts because it seems as though the focus remains on the "startling" details, without the media explaining the rest of the investigation and how those startling details fit in to the big picture.

Leah said...

I have heard some of that too. And that his son Jeffery wasn't really his?? I don't know if that is true either, but it seems that would be easy enough to prove or disprove. And I don't know who made that claim, him or Tracy.

One thing that bothers a lot of family and friends is that Tracy took money from his parents and [over $10,000] it was money they didn't have to give. But they gave it to Tracy because she said she needed it to prove it wasn't a suicide, etc. A couple of years later she was basically shamed into giving it back to them, after everyone found out about all the $$$ she got from his death. She also promised to sent his body back to Iowa {??I think] to his parents for a proper burial but Tracy had him creamated instead. And she waited a while before she finally even told them about it.

Nita said...

Diane, I thought your summation of the Shue case was very well written and informative. There seems to be a lot of confusion among the people who commented on your article. I covered the trial for an area newspaper and sat through many hours of preliminary hearings and then the trial. Tracy did not participate in her husband's bizarre death. She has an alibi. She did take Philip Shue's body (or ashes--I am not sure which) back to his home in Ohio for a funeral service. She had to fight the military to get a space for him at Arlington Cemetery. Tracy Shue spent a fortune in attorney fees--as all of you know, lawyers don't come cheap. All she ever wanted was the truth to come out. My conclusion is that Philip Shue's bizarre demise was covered up by the military. His ex-wife's new husband, Donald Timpson, is a Lt. Col. in the Air Force and is a member of the elite Special Operations force. He was trained in interrogation, including torture.

Diane Fanning said...

Thanks for speaking up, Nita. You've been covering this story for years, I believe. I appreciate the information you added to this piece.

TxMichelle said...

oh I am really curious.

Diane Fanning said...

I sure can relate to your curiosity, Michelle. If they'd only re-open the investigation...

Nita said...

I wish they would re-open the investigation, too. I called the Kendall County Sheriff's Department and Bruce Curry, the DA. Both told me that the "murder" verdict meant nothing to them. A long time ago the Grand Jury came up with suicide as the cause of death and unless brand new evidence is found, the case is forever closed.

Leah said...

But didn't that come from CW, the medical examiner?? That just reeks of BS and a cover up.

Diane Fanning said...

No, Leah, Cyril Wecht was hired to do an autopsy after the local medical examiner ruled it a suicide. Wecht said it was homicide.

Leah said...

Ok, but doesn't his [CW] finding have any weight or credibilty? Second autopsys aren't rare so why is Texas ignoring it?? I guess that is the $50,000 dollar question. But, here is the real problem....Tracy had him creamated.

Anonymous said...

One thing that is confusing some is that homicide and murder are not the same thing. Homicide is the general term for "causing the death of an individual" which could be yourself, or someone else (includes murder as well as other crimes also). So, when a person makes a ruling, whether it be the trial judge or the medical examiner or the justice of the peace, that an occurrence was a homicide, it doesn't necessarily mean murder--that is the intentional and most specific intent version of homicide. Homicide, on the other hand, could also be manslaughter, murder, criminally negligent homicide, or suicide.

The point is, the civil judge saying "it's a homicide" merely just restates what is in the Texas Penal Code, and doesn't really mean anything--because that would include suicide, murder, criminally negligent homicide, etc. It's like saying, "It's a fruit" and other people saying, "Then it must not be an apple." An apple is a kind of fruit, so the judge making a finding of a more general term MEANS NOTHING legally.

Because a suicide would not have a defendant, it's not listed in the Penal Code, but it is basically a death caused by the intentional act of the person who died. There is no one to charge, so there is no point in it being listed as a crime, but it still has a legal definition, which is based on what caused the death.....

Picture a person putting a noose around their own neck, standing on a wobbly chair, and then calling a loved one to come over immediately (a ploy for attention, and asking for help).....then the person's foot slips and the chair moves, and they are hung. The person may have only been wanting attention, but the actions of that person caused their own death. This would be ruled a suicide the same as the person who skipped the phone call and kicked the chair away.

Would you say it was a murder in that situation if the person was mentally distraught over....and I'm just throwing out ideas here....a break up in relationship or somehting? NO, because circumstance did not cause the death---it was caused by the person's own actions.

Colonel Shue's car drove off a road with no other passengers. There were eye-witnesses to this. Murder requires a person (other than the one who died) whose actions caused the death--which was not present here. Even if he was fleeing a kidnapper, that would not be a basic murder. POSSIBLY, if a kidnapping could be shown, and a death occurred in the middle of that, it would be felony murder ( a murder arising during the commission of a felony).

So for the sake of investigation...ignore the death for a minute....who would want to kidnap this colonel and why? That is the real question....and the one noone could answer. And multiple agencies tried, even the air force.

Now let's follow the reasoning that it was a murder to it's logical conclusion. That must be indicted through grand jury and has elements of CAUSATION. So put in any person you want....ex-wife, current wife, hit man from the grassy knoll and put that name as the defendant. The grand jury would have to be able to believe based upon credible evidence that some person CAUSED Colonel Shue's death. However, the CAUSE of Colonel Shue's death was his car hitting a tree and causing impact with his head. How would law enforcement or a prosecutor prove that any other person beyond a reasonable doubt caused his death, when eye witnesses watched him run his car off the road?

The problem with this case is not law enforcement or a prosecutor who doesn't want to know the truth. The problem is that those two entities have to base what they do on credible evidence, and the elements of the law.

Diane Fanning said...

But, Anonymous, recent quotations from law enforcement folks involved in the original investigation indicate that they did not want to close the case and want to re-open it now.
It certainly is not their fault if they were stopped against their wishes.

Leah said...

I understand the difference between murder and homicide, and generally a homicide ruling would deem further investigation whereas a suicide ruling would not.

Anonymous said...

Leah, that's exactly right--but not a homicide ruling by a judge in an unrelated case. By the time this was ruled a suicide by the justice of the peace who was legally required to determine cause of death, the law enforcement had exhausted all sources and investigation was dead. In fact, it was dead long before the suicide was officially determined, it was just that noone wanted to give up.

I haven't heard of anyone in law enforcement saying they didn't want to close the case--and I definitely haven't heard of anyone in law enforcement saying they want to re-open. I can imagine that they were frustrated that there were questions left unanswered. But the only officer who testified in the civil case was unable to point to any routes of investigation that could be followed...and he was the supervisor over the investigator of the case for the entire time. EVERY SINGLE ONE of the rest of the law enforcement personnel subpoenaed would tell you that there was not evidence to prove a murder, and that's probably what they told the grand jury.

If law enforcement officials want to investigate, noone can stop them--not a judge, not a prosecutor, not the governor or the president. Even a grand jury saying "suicide" doesn't preclude further investigation. So when they stopped, it was their decision. What forced their decision was lack of evidence, a situation that has not changed since.

Anonymous said...

The other Anonymous is very well informed and absolutely correct. Colonel Shue put into motion a series of events that led to his death and it was therefore deemed suicide under Texas law. If you examine all the evidence closely it is obvious that the “accident” was staged in an attempt to get the life insurance the first wife held cancelled. Everyone reads about the missing nipples and duct tape and thinks it is obviously a murder. Everyone says he made plans for the future so it could not have been a suicide. Understand that we will never know if Col. Shue intentionally killed himself nor from a legal standpoint do we care. The prevailing theory is that he did not intend to kill himself in the wreck because his plan would have been exposed. His death locked 2.6 mil. of lidocane in his bloodstream indicating someone had numbed his chest before inflicting the incisions. Had he survived the wreck the lidocane would have quickly left his bloodstream and he could have made up any story about an abduction he wanted. He could have restored his reputation with the military, retired on full disability and satisfied Tracy’s obsession that his first wife held the life insurance policy. He did not suffer major blood loss nor was he under the influence of any dehabilitating drugs. In fact the heavy duty anti-depressant/panic medication that Col. Shue’s psychiatrist prescribed, were not in his blood work at the time of death. The colonel passed four exits and a Police Officer that could have helped him if he needed it. The cell phone was working and the smeared blood on the inside was done by investigators scrolling through the index of numbers to see if he had attempted to call for help. Don’t be fooled my Tracy Shue’s comments at the end of this trial, it was always about the money. This civil case was bogus from the beginning and was only allowed to continue as a fishing expedition to crucify anyone that stood in Tracy’s path to more riches. Rest assured this was the most investigated incident in the history of Kendall County and everyone agreed with the suicide ruling but Tracy Shue, one very marginal investigator with the Sheriff’s Office and Dr. Cyril Wecht, who was spoon fed slanted information and a large check from Tracy.

Anonymous said...

Clarification on the issues:

Philip Shue's son was 22 when he divorced his first wife. There were no other children to provide for with a Life Insurance Policy.

The judge stated in open court that "Philip Shue was Murdered".

There was no history of Psychiatric Illness prior to receipt of the letter threatening his life in 1999. Philip Shue held a Top Secret Clearance with the AF and was regarding as an outstanding officer and physician.

Tracy Shue was refused any opportunity to argue her case in a legal forum, other than civil court. She was denied a Public Inquest Hearing by Kendall County Officials. She was denied assistance by the Texas Attorney Generals Office (Gregg Abbott)who informed her and her family that he had "No jurisdiction to intervene in Kendall County".

Philip Shue's parents are extremely grateful to Tracy and their relationship is very loving. The information in Military is a lie and the individual who wrote it should be brought up on charges for stalking both Tracy Shue and Philip Shue's parents.

Philip Shue was murdered and to be deceived to think otherwise is a dishonor to a man who honorable served his country for over 26 years.

Support Our Troops!

Anonymous said...

After years of reviewing documents, depositions, and evidence in the Shue case, Kendall County Judge Bill Palmer, in July 08, issued a seperate ruling to change the Death Certificate to Homicide. Kendall County Texas has been issued an order by Counsel for State Bureau of Vital Statistics to change the death certificate to homicide. Kendall County Texas Officials are refusing to acknowledge the order. The Kendall County District Attorney, Bruce Curry is pleading for Texas State Attorney General Gregg Abbott to help provide cover for Kendall County's huge "screw-up". It will be interesting to see how the Texas Attorney General handles "jurisdictional restrictions" for the DA afer he refused to engage help, when requested, to the Shue family.