Jury finds Cheryl Mickler guilty
By Katrina Elsken
Feb. 7, 1995
MOORE HAVEN -- After deliberating exactly one hour, a Glades County jury found Cheryl Mickler, 39, guilty of abuse or neglect of a disabled adult in connection with the Sept. 10, 1990 death of her husband, Scott.
At the time of his death, Scott Mickler’s body was covered in open sores and one of his feet was literally falling apart from gangrene. Following the verdict, Cheryl Mickler was taken into custody by Glades County Sheriffs deputies. She will remain in the Glades County Jail until her March 6 sentencing hearing.
Cheryl Mickler showed little emotion as the deputies fingerprinted her and led her from the courtroom. Afterwards, the family of Scott Mickler expressed relief that the trial is finally over.
"There has to be some accountability, and this is it," said Doug Mickler, Scott's brother.
“We needed to to be heard,” said Scott's mother, Mary Mickler. “We have waited a long time. Now we’ll start to go on with our lives.”
Assistant State Attorney John Pietrofesa said the second-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison plus fines.
“We’ll be asking for the toughest penalty under the law,” he said.
Mr. Pietrofesa added they will try to recover the trial expenses incurred by Glades County in the case.
He said they know Cheryl Mickler has assets. According to her trial testimony, after attorney's fees and a lawsuit by the family, she wound up with approximately $1.5 million from his estate.
"She used Scott's blood money to finance her defense,” he said.
Mr. Pietrofesa said the verdict, "shows there is still a little sanity left in our legal system”
"Our success was due to the investigation by the Glades County Sheriffs Department, the cooperation concerned citizens and EMS people, the Mickler family and Assistant State Attorney Ed McBain," said Mr. Pietrofesa.
“Scott Mickler suffered two tragedies," Mr. Pietrofesa told the jury in closing arguments Monday evening. “The first tragedy Scott suffered was the 1978 auto accident which left him paralyzed from the neck down. The second tragedy in Scott Mickler's life was when he met and married the defendant.”
“Three things the defendant cared about walked out of the house in Buckhead Ridge." he said.
“The first and foremost was herself. She was healthy. She was groomed. She was clean. What were the two other things? Her dogs. Those dogs lived through that same period without being starved or abused," he said.
The photos you saw (of Scott Mickler), you wouldn't treat a dog that way," Mr. Pietrofesa continued. “She didn't treat her dogs that way. But as for her husband, when the money was running out…you saw what she did."
The prosecutor pointed out that although defense attorney Michael Shalloway has maintained that Cheryl Mickler was mentally impaired due to allergic reactions mold, she was never hospitalized or this condition.
He said the court appointed psychiatrist who viewed the medical records and interviewed and tested Cheryl Mickler found her sane. Mr. Pietrofesa said the defense couldn't even prove there was any mold present in the house at the time Scott Mickler died.
The former Buckhead Ridge woman accused of neglecting her quadriplegic husband took the stand in her own defense Monday.
At the time of his death, Mr. Mickler's body was covered with large, open sores and one foot was suffering from gangrene, according to the medical examiner's report. He died from massive infection.
Cheryl Mickler's testimony claimed she didn't understand how bad Scott's condition was until the day he died.
Shown Sept. 10, 1990 photos of her husband's body. Cheryl claimed she had never seen the photos before and she had never seen Scott in that condition. Cheryl winced slightly as defense attorney Michael Shalloway of West Palm Beach began to show her the photos, one-by-one.
Then she leaned forward to discuss them, actually touching one photo to point to things she said she was seeing for the first time.
Her voice was steady she simple answered "no,” each time Mr. Shalloway produced a photo and asked she had seen Scott in that condition.
She said the months before Scott's death were "foggy."
"I would have periods of confusion," she said. "I would get lost In the house. Scott would ask for something I would take 20 steps to the kitchen and forget what I was going for.” Cheryl said she also had paranoia and was suspicious of other people.
"I used to think people were watching me, she said. "I would think people had moved things in the house." Since she and Scott were the only people in the house, this frightened her, she testified.
"I know It sounds crazy now." she said. "For a couple years before Scott died, I felt like somebody was poisoning me. We had a Culligan water system and I used to think they could have put it in through the water filter,” she said.
On cross-examination, Cheryl admitted she had never before told any of her doctors about this fear.
"I just remembered it last night,” she said.
She said she noticed the bad smell in the home, but thought it was coming from all the garbage stacked in the living room.
"We had garbage pickup on Monday mornings. We had problems because we had dogs. We had a fence all around the house that the dogs had access to. I couldn’t put it outside the fence because the dogs in the neighborhood. At that time, only one room in the house had air conditioning I kept all the garbage in the living room because it was cool," she said.
Cheryl said she had headaches, stomach aches and swelling in her feet.
“The list ls too long for anyone to remember," she said. "I had confusion. I was foggy headed. I had W days as I called them, ‘weird' days. My vision would be impaired, like I was looking through water. It would be wavy." she said.
Cheryl said she had never noticed that Scott's foot had gangrene until Sept. 9, 1990.
I never noticed anything until I went to turn him on that night,” she said. “Part of it fell off. Scott was complaining about having trouble breathing.”
She called her parents, who came over. They called 911.
The EMTS came and took Scott to Raulerson Hospital, where he died a few hours later.
Cheryl told the jurors about her life. growing up in South Florida, dropping out of Bible College, attempting suicide at age 21, getting married, divorcing her first husband, "after he came home with a social disease," and eventually training as a nurse's aid. She said she completed the nurse's aid course at South Tech in Boynton Beach. She said she did not receive a certificate because she failed the final exam.
In June 1984, she went to work for Scott Mickler as a nurse's aid in North Carolina. She said she worked the 4 p.m. to midnight shift and lived upstairs in Scott's house. If he needed her during the night, he could sound an alarm by using a switch he could operate with his mouth. Cheryl said she and Scott traveled to Florida in December to see his parents. At first the visit went well, but problems arose when the Micklers discovered Cheryl and Scott were using cocaine.
After spending a few months in the Florida Keys, they moved to Buckhead Ridge. Scott purchased a home there on Elm Street, and in May of 1985 they were married. Cheryl said the drug use continued. She said the thousands of dollars withdrawn each week from the checking account went to buy cocaine.
She said they stopped using drugs in November 1985, when Scott had a bad reaction after smoking crack.
"We had sniffed cocaine up our noses,” she said. "One day the person who was giving us drugs said she couldn't get cocaine powder anymore. She said rock cocaine was all that was available.”
“We switched over," she said. "On that day, I gave him two rocks at a time. I held it up and he smoked it," Cheryl said. “I was in the pool. He was watching me swim. I went to get a towel and I saw he was making funny faces at me. I found out later he was having a grand mal seizure," she said. "He was foaming at the mouth. His eyes rolled back in his head and he stopped breathing.”
"I said, 'Lord, forgive me.' I remember thinking while I was praying if he dies, I killed him. Scott started breathing again. I took that as an answer to my prayer," she said.
She said she couldn't call for help because, "we were so busy doing drugs that Cheryl forgot to pay the phone bill, and the phone was turned off. "
She said Scott survived, and the drug use stopped.
Cheryl Mickler testified about the former employees who took the stand last week. Both Joan Anderson, a former nurse, and Kathy Curry, a former housekeeper had indicated Cheryl shown no affection toward Scott.
Cheryl said she did not show affection for her husband in front of household employees because when they were there it was a workplace.
She said they started to adopt baby in 1986. They rented a home in New York State for $18,000 to establish residency. They paid an attorney $40,000. She said they never lived in the rented home. She flew to New York and picked up the baby. Four months later, Cheryl said, they decided to give the baby back.
She said they did not want to lie to the judge about actually being New York residents. Cheryl said the attorney came to Florida to pick up the child. She said she received a refund of $6,000, but she didn't know if it was from the attorney or the real estate agent. Cheryl testified that she had formed an attachment to the baby.
When asked why they didn't just move to New York and live in the rented house, she said it was too much trouble to move Scott's medical equipment.
Cheryl Mickler remembered the time Scott's parents had come for an arranged visit and she would not unlock the door. "I could not get everything clean and I didn't want them coming in." she said.
She said it never occurred to her to ask Scott's family for help in taking care of him. She said she did not have any help in the home because they couldn't find any Christians to hire.
“The last person we had was into voodoo,” Cheryl testified. “She was from Jamaica. She was very nice , but we didn’t want voodoo around the house. We asked around. We couldn't find anyone in the immediate area.”
She said they ran an ad in a Christian magazine and received a few responses but no applicants who met their needs.
She testified when she married Scott Mickler, he had approximately $1 million left from his settlement from the Ford Motor Company. By the time of his death, most of the money was gone.
Two years after Scott died, the second lawsuit, against the insurance company of the driver who caused the wreck, was settled. Of the $12 million awarded, the lawyers got half, Cheryl said.
She said she received approximately one-third of the $6 million left, with the rest going to Scott's family. Of her part of the money she said she paid her attorney $500,000 for the probate work and $25,000 so far, for work on the criminal case.