February 05, 2010 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
Today’s story has all the elements for an episode of “Desperate Housewives,” and began two years ago, when I was introduced to “Dr. Sandy,” an extremely handsome, well-respected surgeon in Fresno. “A doctor’s doctor,” as his colleagues described, along with a picture-perfect family; wife, three daughters, and financial success. But as I would soon learn, many years ago, deep blemishes appeared in that picture.
His was a story of poor choices, refusal to do the obvious leading to immense sadness. Over the time that I have known him, his movie-star features began to reveal something else: he has become a man stalked — by terror.
‘I can’t stand the air’
After completing residency in Los Angeles, with his new wife and three daughters, the couple moved to Fresno where he rapidly was recognized for extraordinary medical skill.
But Sandy’s wife “couldn’t stand” the air quality. And so, with their three young girls, she moved back to the Los Angeles suburbs, where the air was better, and could also avoid the “Fresno mentality,” as she put it. Over the years, with one excuse after another for not returning to live with her husband, “Mrs. Sandy” became a study in neurosis.
And Sandy, like a lot of docs, was good at medicine, great with his patients, but cursed by one fundamental character flaw: weakness. He should have told wife and daughters, “Listen, we live here, in Fresno, it is a nice town, there are lots of good people here, our income is derived from this place, we are a family and I want us to remain together.”
All of this took place more than 25 years ago. Sandy, the surgeon, living in Fresno, wife and daughters, in Los Angeles, occasional visits, almost like an inmate’s conjugal visits.
Some marriages aren’t real marriages. Sandy’s hadn’t been one for many years. While it is easy to say that they should have divorced, they didn’t. Instead, developed separate lives.
One day, into Sandy’s office and life walked a new patient, Carmen, a high school Spanish teacher. Soon thereafter, needing to improve his Spanish, doctor and teacher sat down for private lessons. Carmen was 40ish, attractive, well educated, funny, warm, caring, and there for Sandy. Soon, their emotional and physical needs were met.
There was just one slight problem.
Carmen was married to Scott, and on a good day, their marriage could only be described as odd. He was a sex addict, demanding her affection to the point of abuse. But her relationship with Sandy was different, “truly lovemaking,” as they told me, one evening over coffee.
While I am not Catholic, it was obvious that, in their eyes, I had become their surrogate “father confessor,” a Starbucks double espresso replacing holy water.
We had this discussion as Scott found out about the liaison. When he did, the life Sandy knew before would be forever changed. Not only did a jealous husband call all of Sandy’s phones, leaving dark-sounding messages, but somehow, every time Carmen and Sandy met, Scott knew that she was with him, or close by.
Scott also knew where Sandy was, where he was headed, how close he was to the family home in Los Angeles for an occasional visit. Moments before pulling into the driveway, Sandy’s cell phone would ring. “Do tell Tracy hi from me!” was the message.
The dark side of GPS
Scott knew where his wife was, where Sandy was, virtually at all times, as he legally purchased GPS tracking devices and attached them to their cars. Every 10 seconds, an updated position was transmitted using cell site ground location technology, and Scott was able to follow each vehicle on his computer or cell phone.
With Google Earth, he could see the precise location where the cars were located.
He also installed a program on his wife’s cell phone, providing the same information, as well as a record of all of her text messages and numbers called.
While it was legal for him to attach the GPS tracking device to his wife’s car — as he is listed as an owner — he violated California law by placing it on Sandy’s vehicle. He had committed a misdemeanor.
A risk threat assessment evaluation was conducted by my private investigator. It was “high” in all categories — personal and workplace violence, family, and economic loss.
Often lawyers are faced with both legal and moral issues tightly wrapped together. I told Sandy he must end the relationship now.
Has he? My gut feeling is that he has not.
We’ll look at GPS tracking devices in a future article.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.