Diane Schuler’s Ghost

Here we go again. The horrific story of the woman who, with five small children in her car, at 75 mph, drove a minivan the wrong way down a major New York expressway and smashed head on into an SUV, killing herself and four of the children in it as well as the three men in the SUV; the story of the woman who, according to two different investigations, had the equivalent of 10 shots of vodka and a significant amount of marijuana in her system; the story of the woman who, according to her husband,Daniel Schuler, was the perfect mother, worker, wife — simply put, the perfect EVERYTHING: this is the story that has come back to haunt yet again.

Will Diane Schuler’s ghost ever find peace? Will we ever be able to let go of this story, her ghost, that so consumes and haunts us? A recent HBO documentary produced by filmmaker Liz Garbus resurrected the story and made a valiant attempt to help Diane’s anguished spirit find its way home, and our psyches to understand the unthinkable. Did she succeed? Almost. Several years ago Steve Fishman wrote the piece I Dream of Diane for New York Magazine that told the story with a particular focus on her husband, Danny.

Let me recap some of what I saw of the highlights of these pieces. First — Diane was a mega-control freak. She took care of everyone and everything. She was type-A to the max. She honked her car horn, she went to the grocery store and came home with cars, and she mothered her husband. She would not go to doctors or dentists (the latter after a painful and unsuccessful root canal from which she jumped up from the dentist’s chair and simply would not return), she worked her way up from a low level job to a high level management position in a cable company. Speaking of which, she made three figures, almost triple her husband’s modest $43,000 annual salary. She also smoked marijuana on an alleged daily basis to help her unwind from this impossible retinue. As for Danny, he idolized his wife to where she could do no wrong. She was perfect, the marriage was perfect, they had no problems, they agreed on everything, blah, blah, blah and a generous portion of malarkey!!

As all great protagonists, it is clear that Diane was cursed with a fatal flaw. I humbly submit to you that hers was her overwhelming controlling nature. On that day, as is most generally known, she had a toothache from hell, no doubt the ongoing story of the unfinished root canal. It is also known that she stopped at a gas station store for analgesics. They had none. Liz’s documentary does a wonderful job of suggesting that because of Diane’s controlling nature, she wouldn’t admit to her pain and set about self-medicating. Perhaps, the film postures, she might have swigged the vodka without a clear sense of how much she was ingesting and before she could get back in control, it was too late. Yet, staying on that fatal controlling path, she would not let go, and with greatly compromised physical and mental capabilities, well — the rest is in the annals.  Do I think she was innocent? Oh my God, no. I do think she made poor choices and those choices were the result of her fatal flaw.

The accident is over, and the lives lost will be forever mourned. But a true demon, even worse than all the worst we can think of Diane, is in the way of her peace, and of ours. That demon is in the human form of Danny Schuler. Listen to Danny in the documentary. Read about Danny in Fishman’s piece. I haven’t yet decided if Danny is delusional, ignorant, or a liar. Perhaps he is a combination of all three. And what the heck is his brother’s sister doing taking a stage center role in all this? Let it go, for God’s sake, Danny. Tell the truth, or at least acknowledge ours. This woman, your wife, was not perfect, your marriage was not perfect, she was a drug addict, and most probably had a drinking “issue.” She did not have a stroke. She did not have a catastrophic medical crisis. Her system was loaded with drugs and alcohol that perhaps hit her extra hard because of the tooth infection. The fact is, Danny, until you admit to your stupidity, naivety, or lies, no one, not the Hances, (God bless them — I cannot fathom what they have been through), the families of the men in the SUV, the rest of your and Diane’s families, and the thousands of us out here who seek the closure you refuse for anyone to have.  Let it go, Danny, and allow your precious, perfect Diane the freedom to rest in peace at last.

Author: madmuser

A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, and a few things in between. And so that road less traveled has brought me here to follow my dream and my muse.

51 thoughts on “Diane Schuler’s Ghost”

  1. La vie c’est ne pas difficle. Un second de verite et pour sempre l’amie que vous cherchez retournarai.


    1. I am a healthcare professional. I worked in an emergency room for 20 years. Diane’s family is not evil. They are merely baffled and in disbelief that this responsible women would purposely drink 10 shots of vodka on her way home from a camping trip.And I agree with them .
      Diane had signs and symptoms of a subdural hematoma, and I can’t believe the coroner’s did not consider it
      She had it all: headache nausea, visual changes and altered mental status.
      Her autopsy showed traumatic bleeding in the brain which may have obscured the original pre crash bleed in the brain.
      So what she had vodka in the car. Maybe she was bringing it home for company at home in the near future or didn’t want to leave it in camper for teens to break in and get at. Who knows .
      She was disoriented and probably did mistake the. Vodka for water or was just in so much pain and delusional she didn’t kno what she was doing.
      She doesn’t fit the picture of what the situation superficially points to. She Showed no signs of agitation to anyone in McDonald’s or gas station. But heaeache started and was looking for some meds at thd gaz station. Her Conditioned deteriorated while driving . I have seen patients like this more than once.
      It makes much more sense to me.
      The smartest doctors in thd world make mistakes and I believe the experts blew it
      Oh the pot…. she didn’t hide it. Hef sister in law knew about it.
      But everyone close to her knew she just wasn’t a drinker. Only an occasional drinker.
      Her poof family left in to be slandered and shamed when ig is entirEly possible anx probable this was a severe, acute lifethreatening medical event with disastrous timing and outcome.
      She was known not to be a complainer and forged on not knowing how seriously ill she was. And once her mental status started changing she was no longer able to make any sort of a decision.

      1. Hi Donna — I continue to try and get my brain around this accident, and what you’re saying here really makes sense. I always thought Diane was desperate in dealing with some sort of physical issue/pain. Otherwise, nothing really makes sense. I am really glad you wrote — thanks for the insight.

      2. Thx for the supportive comment. And I apologize for the typos! Hadn’t been wearing my glasses the other night. I can only hope the family somehow comes across my comment. They have been through hell.

  2. look, let me say this, I watched the freaking documentary 15, thats right, 15, times, and 15 times, I came up with the same conclusion, Danny Shuler, and his messed up sister-in-law, are by now, professional liars!! that’s right, ‘professional liars, who hon their skill, every dam time a camera is turned on them.. he looks right into the camera and says’ not true everything their saying not true not true’ with a straight f…..ing face not true.. and his co-hort over there, sis in law jay jay.. trumps the lying king, with her, ‘my family doesnt even know I smoke’ stupid ass comment.. got a row boat… toss it over,, with them in it.. and all their dam lies, but leave the little boy, Brian, here, with us, the people who know the truth, and we’ll take care of him, cause he sure aint safe with those two bleeping (**&^^%$$###… god bless the three little Hance sisters, baby Erin, the Bastardi’s and Daniel longo, and of course, the third accident victoms, Dean and Angela, who some how survived the awful rath, of Diane Shuler, that awful day, here’s to Rosane Guzzo and Margret Contidine, Bastardi, Jackie Hance, Warren Hance, and Brian Shuler, may the lord hold you close and protect you from harm, all the days of your life..

    1. Sharon — I completely agree with you! However, my take with Danny is denial and a dearth of brain power. With Jay, well, I think she’s in it for the “glory,” if you could call it that. As for Diane — we’ll never REALLY know, will we? Thanks for the comment. It is amazing how many of us are so emotionally affected by this tragedy.

      1. hi , yes you are so accurate, danny is in severe denial, here i am back on here a year and a half later and still cant wrap my head around this dam guy and his sistet in law. madmuser, have you read jackie hance’s book.. in it, she has a short phone conversartion with danny, he says this to her..’ you are crazy-get some help’ his wife killed her three neices, and he says that to her.. you are so right madmuser, he is in such denial, I am convinved.
        sharon ..

      2. I know what you mean about not being able to wrap your head around it. I am convinced that’s what keeps us searching and sharing information. I wonder what Danny is doing now? I always thought his sister-in-law was opportunistic. Disgusting…

      3. Re-reading Sharon’s comments I have to agree about Danny being a professional liar. I haven’t read Jackie Hance’s book but I did download Guy Bastardi’s book. I think it was there that I read the police discovered that Danny didn’t go the campground until Friday – mid day. No one knows where he was on Thursday night. Even when confronted with evidence of his lie he tried to deny it to the police and stick to his original story of arriving at the campground a day before Diane did. If he was having an affair – well his wife was dead. Most people would just tell the truth at that point. But not him.

      4. Here I am, again!! This time nearly ten years later, and not a single thing has changed! Daniel Schuler, and Ms. Front row seat, documentary queen, J’, never came around to the TRUTH!

        I guess it’s true, one lie spawns a dozen, and a dozen, spills over into a decades worth!

        Bryan, if you’re reading, there will be light at the end of the tunnel for you, sweet boy. And as you grow into a fine young man, pick your battles wisely, because your father, will always be, your father.

        Love him for the faults you realize in him, your life is worth it, you’re still here and learning everyday.

        That is God’s gift to you.

        Sharon Wiehler

      5. Sharon — what beautiful words. I think about little (not so little now) Bryan a lot, and I do hope he got the physical, emotional and mental help he needed and needs. During the summer I thought about this again quite a bit, and it just makes me mad that there is still no answer! But perhaps someone does have the answer and just isn’t telling.

  3. Each time I watch “There is something wrong with Aunt Diane” I come away with more questions than answers. For some reason I cannot see this lady drinking &. smoking “up”. It would seem she loved all of those children very much.She would have to have had 10 drinks and smoked a lot of “Weed” in a very short period of time. So much so the children would had to have seen her. I just can’t see this all happening if front of the older girls. As far as the bottle of Vodka It was broken in the crash, no one knows if it was full and the seal not broken, Pot has an unmistakable scent, I cannot see this being done in front of the children. I thought I read some where that it’s a little more 30mins to drive home from the camp grounds, Diane was could have been lost and confused and didn’t how to get off that highway, “SHE woulda, shoulda, coulda, done alot of things. Before the crashthe car seemed ok,after the crash I have not heard what injuries Diane sustained. I would be interested to know
    If there were injuries to her brain that were pre or post accident.

    1. Like you, this accident has, and always will, haunts me, and for some of the reasons you point out. But the bottom line remains that her blood alcohol levels proved that she’d been drinking and smoking pot. The more I ponder this thing, the more I think she experienced a catastrophic breakdown caused by several things: her toothache, the stress of having 5 rambunctious, loud kids in the car, the stress of the upcoming workweek, and whatever else she may have hidden from everyone. This woman did not set out to murder anyone. This woman was not a “bad” person. She was a control freak, she was rigid. But something triggered her brain to malfunction in a major way.

    2. He probably was having that affair and probably did so with his documentary co-star, which is why he would never admit it. I do agree she is in the middle of it all for the fame and the ride that fame gives, but just maybe she is in the middle of this story because she was also in the middle of their marriage too.

      1. I think his documentary co-star was his sister? Of course, in this day and age, that may not mean anything in terms of what you suggest.

      2. Dena I thought the same thing he and his SIL or someone she knows……he was having an affair with, she was his brothers wife.

    3. Madmuser, I’ve come around to a final conclusion, please read carefully because I need your feedback ok… Diane and Daniel, had some things to work out in their marriage, and Danny, felt it was safer to say or here the things that would finally bring this marriage to an end, if the children were present while telling his wife, he has someone else. We don’t Diane, so we don’t know her temper. But if her children were in ear shot while Danny laid the truth on her, she’d have to remain contained through it.

      I believe this was why they took those kids up there, because she was in no shape to be ‘aunt of the year, and we sure as hell know, Danny had to fondness towards being ‘uncle of the year!

      I believe this trip was where the marriage ended.

      In the documentary Danny is pissed at his wife for this…. why would you be pissed if you believe she had a medical episode as he claims, he knows dam well, she did this on purpose and that’s why he’s pissed. These kids were used as a pawn that weekend so Diane would have to contain herself, for the bad news, but she found another way to come unraveled in the presence of those kids.


      1. We must have mental telepathy going on, Sharon, because today I was thinking about how not having an answer is absolutely mind-boggling. What you pose here is very plausible. And if I’m reading you right, it was Danny who arranged to have all the kids there? Do you think Diane drove down that highway purposefully, or was she so out of it she didn’t know what she was doing? And have you any information about how the Vance’s are doing?

  4. If Diane wasn’t a drinker and drank for tooth pain and it didn’t work fast and drank more then on hyway it all suddenly hit her and her head hurt she got sick and maybe smoked weed to take booze away and it all got worse. If ya don’t drink you don’t know how much to drink or how long it takes to feel it.

    1. Lynda, you make a very plausible argument here — things that make sense where nothing else does. Tooth pain is unbearable, especially when it is let go for as long as Dianne evidently did. Sadly, we will never know the real answer and in the meantime, I do believe I shall never be able to get this unfathomable tragedy out of my mind.

      1. The difference between an alcoholic and non alcoholic is that while the non alcoholic might try a drink or two to ease the pain of a toothache when they got sick with a van full of children they would have pulled off and called for help. Only alcoholics drink and have blackouts and throw up and drink some more and keep going. I was trying to find a map of where Diane went that day and came across this website. i have to say ( after reading the posts on this page ) that Diane is not in hell. I am sorry that anyone would think that and I am sorry that she did not find the love and support in this life that she so desperately needed. Women have a harder time asking for help to get sober. In fact, most of us don’t make it. Diane was – and is -a beloved child of God who went home to her loving creator. Same as you and I will do. RIP Diane.

    2. Diane Schuler stopped her car on more than one occasion on her way home. Who drinks while driving-REGARDLESS of whether you have tooth pain or not!! When you are DRUNK or IMPAIRED you know it. Period. She had umpteen times that she could have pulled over and stayed PUT -and in fact she did pull over several times-until someone came for her and those innocent kids!! Her brother told her he was on his way. In my opinion, she was determined to drive home-impaired or not. She was not going to have her brother come and get her and face the humiliation and the possibly getting arrested for DUI and child endangerment. WHO DRINKS AND/OR DOES DRUGS and then piles kids in the car and drives. I’ll tell you who-a control freak ego maniac thats who!! This was not her first rodeo-I don’t care what spin you put on it. Also, the fact that she was driving the WRONG WAY up the exit ramp onto the highway will tell you how out of it she was. You have to make a concerted effort-simply by the safety design of an exit ramp-to steer your car onto to an exit ramp, which would place your vehicle heading into the opposite direction from where you came. Shame on her husband-shame on his sister in law. Liars. Their relationship is questionable anyway. I hope that Diane Schuler rots in Hell. I pray for the families left behind-and for those children-the oldest whose final moments were filled with terror. How dare she? !! The fact that she never responded to the several motorists who tried to flag her down, alert her-and that she never even hit the brakes before she slammed head on into the other car-says more than what any of us may want to know. Did she just give up? Did she crack under pressure? Were those final moments actions of purpose?

    3. Madmuser, yeah she knew what she was doing, I’m from New Jersey and I’ve been on that side of the Tap, where she left her phone, and when you get out, you’re taking your life in your hands, you was cagey in being able to avoid being hit there, she wasn’t ready yet, she was Getting ready!

      I think having the kids there for Danny, was a protection factor…

      No way, that was a FANTASTIC weekend, like he exclaims!!!! The game you, hiking, swimming, roasting marshmallows. Get the hell out of here you lied, you were miserable with those kids around, but it saved your ass, for a while, til she left you with one to raise for the rest of your pathetic life!!!

      Jackie and Warren, needed a reason not to kill themselves, so they had another child, hats off to them!!
      But their life I’m sure, hinders on one second at a time, and that’s dangerous stuff, let me tell ya!

      For Diane Shuler, to do what she did, she had to show signs of instability for years, that crash wasn’t a one time deal, for horrendous judgment, that shit was was being sculpted and molded for years!

      Shame on everyone in that family, for being petrified of blowing the whistle on her, because that’s how dangerous she was, she made everyone so dam afraid to confront her, even when your kids lives are in her hands!!! Wow!


      1. Yes! Completely agree, Sharon. Thank you for articulating what has been on my mind since viewing the documentary just one year ago.

  5. As are most control freaks,, Diane was a coward, and something pushed her over the edge that day. Whatever it was, I am sure her husband knows, she decided to take those children with her, and the others who shared the road with her, into death. She could control the way things ended. She had to control everything. She even controlled the way she died. She masked her horrific and frightening ending with drugs and vodka. Everyone else, including the children, were on their own. They would have to face it all sober, no masks. Diane is in hell now. The others, in heaven. As for Danny and the blonde whore at his side, sister in law, whoever she is, they will soon meet Diane. Losers. Danny just didn’t want to get sued and the blonde hag wanted to be “in the middle of a mystery.” How sad she used the death of small children to gain that. I hope she gets throat cancer and dies slowly.

    1. If there is one thing this tragedy does it’s anger and horrify us. From everything I’ve read, it does seem Diane was a control freak. But the question will always remain unanswered as to what truly happened on that awful day. Thanks so much for your thought-provoking comment.

    2. Thank you!! Finally someone with some common sense. I, like you, believe that this was all orchestrated by her! This was her final F-you-and she took those innocent babies with her. Hell is too good for her. As for her husband ( man baby ) and that sister in law….ew.

  6. I lived that life for a long time but no closet drinker is without slip ups so the fact that family and friends knew absolutely nothing about what was going on with her is hard for me to believe. Toward the end of my own drinking I was blacking out after just 2 drinks sometimes. I became Increasingly afraid of the large amount of liquor I was consuming in blackouts and knew if I kept going with it I would end up alcohol poisoned someday. I also drove drunk and got lost several times on roads I travelled on every single day. It was a very scary and lonely life and one people don’t talk about except in AA meetings. It seems clear to me that Diane decided to have a drink on the way home that morning – for whatever reason – and it hit her harder than she expected. Once her brain went to the blackout place I’m sure the booze and pot began to flow freely. Her sister in law was exactly right – she was not in her right mind. Obviously, her mind left because of the booze and would not have returned until she sobered up. Diane is certainly not the first person to be twice the legal limit caught driving the wrong way down a freeway. Had she lived, I am sure that no one would have been more horrified at what happened that day than Diane herself. Her husband needs to give up defending her already. No good can come from that. Also, the fact that he allowed her death photos to be included in the documentary makes me angry. If he really loved her and wanted to protect her memory – as he says he does – than he would not have wanted the whole world to look at her dead and laid out in the grass like that.

    1. You are so courageous to share your story here, Cindy. I applaud you. My daughter has also wrestled with a near-terminal case of active alcoholism, so like, you, I have an understanding of it as a disease. I think the most perplexing thing about Diane’s story, for me, at least, is that we’ll never know what happened on that day. I do think Diane had a controlling nature, she had to to manage everything that she did in her life, and as such, alcoholism could have part of her coping mechanism for that. Whatever it was that went down in her mind that day, it shall always be a mystery. But I do have a question for you — what did you think of the argument presented in the documentary, “Something’s Wrong With Aunt Diane?”

  7. It feels to me like what happened in my office when a co-worker killed himself. According to his wife he woke up on a beautiful Saturday morning and said he was going to Starbucks for a coffee. Instead, he came to our office wrote out instructions for the book-keeper to deposit his paycheck for him then left when a co-worker showed up. He walked across the street and went up to the observation deck of Aloha Tower, climbed over the suicide barrier and fell 10 stories to his death. His wife stuck to her story that all was well in the home for a long time. It was really a cruel thing because I struggled to understand with why he would have done that to himself. What I know today is that all was not well with him and his family. His wife had filed for divorced, his girlfriend dumped him and none of his 5 children was speaking to him. In addition, he had been living out of his car and sleeping in his office at night. The IRS was after him and he seemed to have had no close friends and no one he could turn to. Suicide by jumping is usually a very implusive act. Like my co-workers wife, I think Diane’s husband is an ass and has left us struggling to understand a story that is not true. I also wonder if this happened because of the traffic she got caught in. No doubt she meant to just have a quick drink or 2 and be home safely with the kids. Somehow it took a tragic turn for the worst and she lost her mind to an alcoholic black out. Normal drinkers don’t have that happen to them. This story will never make sense the way the husband tells it because it is not true. She was not a normal drinker and was probably self medicating with booze and pot for a long time.

    1. Wow — what a sad and compelling story about your co-worker. I am sorry you had to go through that. Another issue with Diane’s story is her tooth. She’d been suffering for a long time with a painful tooth abscess and for anyone who’s ever been through that, the pain is absolutely debilitating. In short, a tragic and complicated set of factors in Diane’s most tragic story.

      1. I totally understand about nursing a troublesome tooth but even that just adds to the mystery. If you know you have a bad tooth that causes you pain you would not want to go camping without some aspirin close at hand – would you ? I am driving myself crazy trying to figure out how close to being home she was. They had estimated the arrival time at her brother’s house at 1:00 and then at 1:30. The accident happened right around 1:30. How close to her final destination was she I wonder ?

  8. One thing that puzzles me about all this. The autopsy says she was wearing black shorts but in the video of her in the store she had on longer tan shorts. Was anything ever said about her changing? I think she may have vomited on the others and has to change. But where?

      1. I just watched it, no her pants were black in all shots of her. She had on capris a little above her ankles.

  9. I’m not sure you are active still, but I returned to this sad story this afternoon, and after reading all these comments, I guess I’d like to share some observations. I have not viewed the documentary ‘Something’s Wrong…’ My comments are based researching online and especially, simply watching a video in particular, the press conference with Dominic Barbara.

    I found this video extremely revealing. There was plenty of meta communication. For example, I found Daniel’s facial expressions almost… scary. He looks like he is about to lose his cool, like he wanted to hatchet somebody. I would say hatred was the dominant emotion on his face, not sorrow. This I became suspicious of…really, is this the emotion you are primarily feeling after losing someone you love deeply (supposedly, if you’re married to them). Which always brought up the 2nd question, *why*, after experiencing such a horrendous loss, would you agree to appear on camera, in such a circus-like atmosphere?!

    There are so many other observations I made, but I’ll keep this short.

  10. This was murder suicide by a very depressed person. It probably just started out as drinking to cope but as things spiraled out of control (the call with the brother coming to pick them up being the last straw) it was time to end it and take the kids with her.

      1. I think what makes people so obsessed with this case is that it is such a unique and unbelievable tragedy. A mother putting her kids and others in harm’s way regardless of her emotions. Nobody will ever know what really happened. One other tragedy that comes to mind because it is so unique is Columbine. Almost all mass murders in history are the result of a lone demented wolf snapping. However, this was two guys meticulously planning for a year together. These two cases boggle the mind.

  11. You know I disagree with that. The more time that passes the more I know that no one would be more horrified than Diane herself with what happened. It was an accident – on her part. Of that I am sure. It may have started with a toothache – or the emotional pain of a cheating husband. We will never know but she tried to drive those kids home safely. The vodka screwed it up for her.
    Not for one second have I ever believed she was trying to kill herself and the children with her on purpose. I just don’t see it.

    1. I totally agree.But I dont beleve its a toothache issue She had all the symptoms of a subdural hematoma… headache ( stopped to try and get pain meds) nausea vomiting, difficulty seeing and finally altered mental status . I 100 percent believe the altered mental status caused her to drink the vodka. Thirsty from vomiting….and thought it was water in her altered state.
      Autopsy did not show it cuz of severe headtrauma …bleeding in brain. And damage to tissue caused by head injury in accident. I feel so sorry for her son who has to deal with a report not reflecting a medical cause.

  12. I’ve watched the HBO documentary a half dozen times. Jay Schuler, Diane’s sister-in-law, is a natural story teller. She seems so familiar to me. I don’t take issue at all with her relentlessly wanting to get at the truth of what happened. And unlike Danny, whose emotional stonewalling also seems quite known to me, Jay is at least willing to accept the worst about Diane with the necessary proof to back it up.

    For the most part, I saw the film as a good mix of character witnesses and authorities in telling the story. I did scoff at the police claiming we couldn’t know for sure what Diane had asked for in the Sunoca store because the video had no audio…as if the clerk in question had simply vanished. And one of the witnesses of Diane’s fatal driving was a woman barely in control of her own skewed sense of reality. Very odd.

    Full marks to Liz Garbus for including the flesh-and-bones images of Diane deceased. In the final analysis, they showed what the whole tragic episode was honestly all about.

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