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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Christina Schumacher's Marital Hell And Involuntary Commitment To a Mental Hospital

     In 2011, Ludwig "Sonny" Schumacher lived in Essex, Vermont with his wife Christina and their son and daughter. They had been married 17 years and their marriage was falling apart. The couple also had problems with their professional lives.

     After retiring from the Vermont National Guard as a Colonel and a F-16 pilot, Schumacher accepted an executive position with the Timberiane Dental Company in South Burlington, Vermont. Christina worked as a financial officer with the GE Healthcare Corporation, a company she had been with for more than twenty years.

     In July 2011, Christina petitioned a family court judge for an order of protection against abuse from her husband. In support of her request, Christina claimed that their 15-year-old daughter was afraid of her father. "My daughter," she wrote, "is fearful and has said if I do not file this petition she will file her own. She is now staying with friends." According to the protection order petition, Mr. Schumacher had struck Christina in the face in front of the girl. He had also abused his wife by grabbing her arm and pulling her hair. The family court judge denied the protection request.

     In 2012, after Christina's job at GE Healthcare was eliminated, she landed a position with an Internet firm called, MyWebGrocer. A few months later, she quit that job. Ludwig Schumacher ran into employment problems himself that year. Officials at Timberiane Dental fired him.

     In July 2013, a judge granted Christina a temporary order of protection against her husband after he tipped his 14-year-old son Gunnar's bed upside down with the boy in it. According to the court petition, Mr. Schumacher kept the boy pinned to the floor by pressing his knee against his back. When Gunnar broke free, the father allegedly threw him to the floor. Christina cited this and other incidents of her husband's out-of-contral rage to illustrate a "pattern of abuse which causes fear" for her and her son.

     Ludwig Schumacher appealed his wife's protection of abuse order and won. The family court judge ruled that the description of events in Christina's petition did not constitute domestic abuse by a parent as defined by Vermont law.

     Christina, on September 3, 2013, filed for divorce on grounds that her 49-year-old husband had been unfaithful, abusive, and mentally ill. Shortly after the divorce filing, he moved out of the house and rented an apartment in Essex. In cross-filing for divorce, Mr. Schumacher described Christina as mentally ill, noting that during the summer of 2013, she had received intensive mental health treatment at the Senneca Center at the Fletcher Allen Health facility in Burlington.

     Ludwig Schumacher, on Tuesday, December 17, 3013, called Essex High School stating that his son Gunnar would be absent two days due to "a family situation." A day later, at two in the afternoon, a friend of Gunnar's went to the Schumacher apartment where he found Gunnar and his father dead.

     The 14-year-old boy had been strangled and his father had hanged himself. Mr. Schumacher left behind a long suicide letter explaining why he had murdered his son and killed himself.

     On the day after the discovery of her dead husband and son, a doctor informed Christina that if she didn't check herself into a psychiatric ward at the Fletcher Allen Health Care facility in Burlington, she would be taken into custody by the authorities and put into the hospital without her consent. Because Christina had once told her sister that if anything happened to her children she would kill herself, the doctor felt he was acting in her best interest. Christina insisted that she did not need mental health treatment. All she wanted to do was grieve with her 17-year-old daughter. The doctor followed through on his threat by having Christina involuntarily committed to the mental ward.

     On December 30, 2013, Christina called the Burlington Free Press and asked the newspaper to investigate her situation, saying that the state had no basis to hold her against her will in the mental facility. While Vermont law did not require a prompt judicial review of involuntary mental health commitments, the publicity Christina received from newspaper stories prompted a judicial hearing.

     On January 22, 2014, after three hours of testimony before a Superior Court judge in Burlington, the judge said he disagreed with Christina's mental illness diagnosis and the assessment that she was a danger to herself and others. The judge ordered her release after five and a half weeks in the psychiatric ward.

     Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, whose office had argued for Christina's continued hospitalization, had no comment for the press.

     I have no trouble believing that Ludwig Schumacher had abused his wife and children. Moreover, if Christina Schumacher did have mental health problems, they were probably caused by the domestic turmoil in her life.

     

17 comments:

  1. As a psychologist I can fully understand the treating physician's insistence on a PEC for a full inpatient mental health status evaluation. This poor woman (according to you) had a psychiatric history and had made prior statements of suicidal ideation. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Because if a mental health professional does not take extreme precaution and someone does kill himself, there is a tragic and needless death along with the high potential for a career destroying malpractice suit. Not only that, there are other pertinent parties to consider. How do you think it would have affected the surviving children to have lost BOTH parents in this situation? Ethical dilemas about in medicine--especially with respect to mental health and end of life decisions. The fact that her psychiatrist had personnel on hand to enforce the PEC suggests to me that her chart had information in it that gave the doctor cause for serious concern about her coping abilities under this kind of duress. My unanswered questions lie with the inordinate amount of time she remained committed. A physician's emergency commitment (PEC) in most states is typically of short duration.. often only three days. At that point the hospital makes a recommendation for either discharge or continuing treatment, again typically in consultation with the closest next of kin. Naturally, I have not seen this woman's chart, but can speculate from what is known that she may have been experiencing abuse related PTSD in addition to acute grief. None of this was easy, but it may have resulted in keeping her from self-harm. We won't know without all the facts, and we may never know. I do know this: The general public is typically very ignorant of the enormous responsibility and potential culpability than can affect mental health professionals. I freely admit that my post is biased from a professional perspective..but then we don't often have the luxury of second guessing our decisions in crisis situations. We can only try to achieve best practice based on information at hand, and then hope for the best.

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    1. Thank you for you comment on this situation. I sincerely wish that The Burlington Free Press would publish this. There is so much more to this horribly tragic story that is not being published (nor should be). The Free Press is doing a huge disservice to this woman and her family, particularly her daughter. Very sad......

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    2. She was involuntarily imprisoned for 5 weeks while her 17 year old surviving child was essentially orphaned and left "grieving" for her family all by herself. In what way was she safer than sorry?

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    3. The "psychologist" who posted above needs to have his licensure reconsidered. This woman's civil rights were violated during a time of incredulous psychosocial distress and trauma for her and her surviving daughter. "Better safe than sorry"? Sir/Madam, you are a potential abuser of your own misplaced power and stupidity.

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  2. There are many, many details you have written that are incorrect. Also, many details are unknown by The Burlington Free Press, or ignored.....either way, their coverage of this story is poor, unprofessional, sensationalistic, and completely inconsiderate of the family....especially a very special, strong 17 year old.

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  3. Christina Schumacher's courage in telling her story is tremendously admirable; she is not alone in her experience of being held hostage for the purpose of psychiatric experimentation/torture. Wherever there is domestic violence and crazymaking, along with family scapegoating of the survivor, along comes the System that selectively chooses people during the most vulnerable times in their lives to experiment on, with impunity and long-term impact akin to that of post war vets, but without the right to tell one's story without punishment and rejection from society. I am one of those survivors, too, and am sure that there are many, many more out there. Hats off to Ms. Schumacher for testifying about this horrific psychiatric abuse/mind control, both of which are alive and growing in this country. It is validating to know that there are others like us out there.

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  4. "On January 22, 2014, after three hours of testimony before a Superior Court judge in Burlington, the judge said he disagreed with Christina's mental illness diagnosis and the assessment that she was a danger to herself and others. The judge ordered her release after five and a half weeks in the psychiatric ward."

    Most readers have no idea how unusual and remarkable this is! First of all, it was only due to this woman's going outside the system, directly to the press, that this type of court hearing took place. Otherwise, if she got any kind of hearing it would have been a closed "kangaroo court" in which the cards would have been completely stacked in favor of the hospital (these kind of hearings have a track record of supporting the hospital's position about 95% of the time). I congratulate the judge involved, who apparently relied on his own common sense and had the courage to forgo the requirement for "expert witnesses" to contest the hospital's psychiatrist and lawyers. Believe me, I've been there (as parent of a patient who had deteriorated under their form of "treatment") and a person without very substantial means is ENTIRELY at the mercy of the hospital's demigods!

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  5. Wow...the above comments are insane themselves, knowing the real truth as a close family member...they are insulting at the least. Mentally ill people are gifted in manipulation. Pray for Gunnars sister and let that be your comment!!

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  6. Im so angered by people assuming they know know the full story. You dont! and as a family member.. I DO The 17 year old wants her mother well, not out and unsafe. She is a strong young lady who chose to move out long before her mother was hospitalized DUE to her mother NEEDing to be hospitalized. get the facts!

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    1. Then why don't you share with us the facts?

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  7. There is so much more to this story. What this father did was so horrible and wrong, but there is something obviously not right with the mother. Why would the daughter not stick by her? I'm thinking they were/are both mentally ill.

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  8. There is much more to the story and the background of Sonny Schumacher. I knew him well as a teen, then again in his 20's, then again about 10 years before this tragedy. I have letters from him and conversations, emails. He showed signs of extreme narcissism as a teen, including statements of suicidal thoughts as a teen. My opinion is based on knowing him for a long time - love to let his doctors see his mental thoughts as a teen in his own handwriting which I have. He was not mentally healthy and no doubt his controlling behavior only escalated as he aged. Told me he would never leave his family.......
    Yes, he was unfaithful and yes he was determined to control it to the end.
    I am grateful I was his teen love that he had to move away from and never became his wife. I wish I could tell Christina how sorry I am that she and her daughter had to endure his hell. I think of your family and send love.

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  9. they where murdered by higher powers

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  10. they where murdered by higher powers

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  11. This story is bullshit. Christina Schumacher was cheating on sonny for years with a co worker. Also Gunnar told me himself his father knew about the cheating an his mother thought it was her best kept secret. Also she used all the money from the life insurance policies on teenagers who she smoked weed with and drank alcohol with bought two teenagers cars. And also had sex with multiple of Gunnar's girlfriends guy friends and cousin.

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  12. Christina was cheating on sonny for years with a co worker. Gunnar knew about it and told me and I was his girlfriend at the time. His father also knew and hoped she'd stop but after years of Christina's continuing cheating, sonny must have broke.

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  13. This is not the first murder suicide in that small town.
    There was the Knight family... maybe about 50 years ago/ also father and son. Father was extremely abusive as well.

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