Anne Scripps Douglas lived the typical life of a battered woman — the whispered telephone calls, the lies to friends and family, the coded messages to the few she could trust. Like a frightened animal she jumped at every loud sound, each ring of the phone, and most of all at the drunken curses of the man she had once loved but who now terrified her.
Scripps, founder of
Scripps, founder of
Her life had not always been this way. She grew up a child of privilege, the descendant of the men who founded what would one day become the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, once publishers of the Detroit News, Cincinnati Post and other newspapers across America. The Scripps family was as tough as any publishing group in the days of the Penny Press, but they were philanthropic, too. Anne’s father, a retired merchant marine captain, was running the Tracy Foundation’s alcoholic rehabilitation center in upstate New York when she was born in 1946.
Anne Scripps as a
young woman (AP)
young woman (AP)
Growing up, Anne was subjected to a rigorous academic and disciplinary course at the all-girls Sacred Heart Convent near Albany and after graduation returned to Manhattan where she studied at the Duchesne Residence School, a two-year college for Catholic women. It was also run by the Religious of the Sacred Heart. Anne, an interior design student, graduated in 1966. A comment on her record by Mother Clare Krim, the director, described Anne as “very attractive, pleasant, very active on the social service committee and always willing to help others.”
After graduation, Anne followed the course of so many other well-to-do young ladies and entered the debutante arena, coming out at cotillions in New York and Europe.
Anne enjoyed life in Bronxville, New York, an upstate commuter city. It was there that Anne and her new husband, Anthony Morell, a bond trader, settled after their society wedding when Anne was 23. Her bridal attendants included Princess Immaculata Hapsburg of Vienna and the ushers included Victor Emmanuel Jr. of the House of Savoy, direct descendant of the king of Italy.
What Anne wanted most was the quiet life of a suburban housewife. Friends said she sought the ideal marriage that only seems to exist on television. She wanted to be waiting each night at the doorway as Tony, whom she referred to as her “prince in shining armor”, returned from the city to dinner on the stove, the children playing in the yard, the martinis cooling in the glass.
Shortly after they moved to Bronxville, Anne became pregnant and eventually the family included daughters Alexandra and Anne. Anne was determined to give them the close parenting she had not received and friends recalled that there was nothing in the world more important to Anne than the girls.
“She spent so much time with the kids,” said Sharon Boles, a friend for two decades. “I’d say to her, ‘You’re doing the kind of thing I wish we had done. You stop and smell the roses.’ She truly loved those kids. She couldn’t love them enough.”
Each day Anne would walk her daughters to school, return to pick them up for lunch and take them back after. At the end of the day she would walk them home from school.
But Tony liked the fast-paced world of high finance and parties. The marriage lasted until the girls were teenagers, but in the end their differences proved irreconcilable. Tony and Anne divorced in 1988, after 18 years of marriage.
“It was hard for her to be single,” said another friend, Gretchen Devlin. “Anne was more afraid of being alone than anything else. She had believed in Tony, believed in marriage . . . She was afraid to be alone raising her kids.”
Shortly after the divorce, Anne met Scott Douglas at a party and the two became friends. What Anne saw in Scott, few others in her circle did, but that made no difference to her. She shrugged off their warnings and began dating the younger man.
Scott Stuart Douglas
The man who killed Anne Douglas remains an enigma. Scott Douglas appears to have been a chameleon because everyone police talked to in the days and weeks after Anne’s murder described his personality differently. Their characterizations range from “Scott Douglas was one of the nicest guys you ever met,” to “He had no respect for women, said women are nothing but a bunch of whores” and everything in between.
It’s unfair to characterize him as a boy from the other side of the tracks, because just about everyone is on the other side compared to where Anne Scripps Douglas grew up. Scott grew up in Rye, New York, the son of a single mother trying to raise a young family after the death of her husband. When his mother remarried, Scott fought with his stepfather, but friends recalled the fights were not out of the ordinary between men and boys in similar situations.
Living in Rye, Scott saw how the other half lived and yearned to join the well-heeled. He didn’t have the educational drive to get there through college, however, and one former acquaintance told the press that he had talked about marrying a wealthy woman.
The friend — the same man who said Scott had no respect for women — said Anne was not the first well-to-do older woman Scott was involved with.
“Anne Scripps was small potatoes compared to some of the gals. There were Mercedes, Cadillacs … all pulling up to see him,” said Wallace Rouse. “The gals he went around with were very substantial, very beautiful. He was an earthshaker, had a personality to make movie stars look like a bunch of bums.”
“He was a good-looking guy,” said Eleanore Hannon, who lived below him in Greenwich. “He had a great body, was very good looking, charming, affable, a Boy Scout of a guy. With a light and dark side.”
There was nothing in Scott’s background to indicate he was capable of fatal violence, but he did partake of illegal drugs and fathered two children out of wedlock — a secret he kept from Anne. It would turn out later that he kept many secrets from Anne and told her many lies.
Rouse, who lived near Douglas, recalls that there were fights occasionally, but attributes them more to Scott’s tendency to date more than one woman at a time than to a personality disorder.
Scott was handsome and tall, and there was nothing in his demeanor that would have indicated he would turn into a murderer. He had an unusual hobby, taxidermy, so it wasn’t odd to find a dead raccoon or other varmint in his freezer awaiting preparation, but they weren’t trophies of the sort many violent killers like to have.
One thing that most people can agree on — Scott Douglas was tight-lipped and private. He could keep a secret, and even people who saw him on a regular basis knew little about his private life. He tended to compartmentalize his life. After he married Anne he shrugged off his old friends’ inquiries about life with the rich and famous. He continued to maintain an apartment in town after the marriage to Anne, but it was basically a storage facility for his painting business. Scott rarely spent the night there, only doing so after the marriage became rocky. To Anne’s wealthy friends, he was standoffish, which they believed came from feelings of inferiority. They made efforts to be friendly, but Scott didn’t seem interested. This became a vicious cycle. He tried to peel her away from her friends, they resented him, he felt unwanted and tried even more to build a wall between Anne and her circle.
An Unwise Marriage
Annes two daughters, Alexandra
and Anne (AP)
and Anne (AP)
The only people excited about the marriage of Anne Scripps and Scott Douglas were the newlyweds themselves. Her family begged her not to marry him for a variety of reasons. There were those who looked down on the house painter as beneath her, others thought the difference in their ages — she was nine years older — too much to overcome. Anne’s two daughters disliked Scott from the outset. They saw their mother was vulnerable and were afraid Scott was going to take advantage of her. He was too unpolished for their tastes.
“He was not very bright and very inarticulate,” her daughter Alexandra said later. “I had nothing in common with him.”
It wasn’t about the money, they say, and that’s very likely the case. The Scripps family fortune, like so many other old money estates, is well-protected in trusts and there was no way Scott Douglas was going to marry Anne and run through the family’s $900 million nest-egg. Anne herself saw to that. She might have been sheltered, but she wasn’t naive and she wasn’t stupid. Even after the wedding, Scott was kept on a tight budget and continued to work at his painting business.
The two met in Rye in January 1988. The New York Times said they met on New Year’s Day. Newsday claims it was Super Bowl Sunday. Regardless, everyone agrees that they met at a party at a local watering hole, where the recently divorced Anne was beginning to spread her wings in a town that wasn’t very open to single women in their late 30s.
After that introduction, Anne hired Scott to paint her house and romance blossomed, friends said.
“I think she didn’t have a great deal of confidence after her first marriage, and he was very charming, very charming,” Sharon Boles told reporters later. “And he presented himself as being very concerned about her. He was very handsome and when we met him he seemed very solicitous of her.”
It was a whirlwind romance and Anne shocked her family and friends by announcing she was getting remarried.
Anne Scripps Douglas
“We tried to talk her into waiting,” a friend told People magazine. “But she was vulnerable, a bit scared after her divorce. How do you put restraints on a grown woman?”
Some of their efforts might have ultimately added fuel to the fire that consumed the couple. Anne’s friends let it be known that they knew people who used drugs with Scott. They questioned his fidelity and accused him of having a chameleon-like personality. But nothing could stop the romance, and in October 1988 Anne Scripps and Scott Douglas were married.
He had proposed only five days earlier and said they had to be married “right now,” friends recalled later. She agreed and dismissed friends’ requests that the couple at least sign a prenuptial agreement.
The ceremony was small and took place in the living room of the Bronxville home Anne had kept from her first marriage. His mother did not attend the ceremony and Scott had told Anne that she was dead. This was just one of the lies in which she would catch him later.
Anne’s mother, brother and sister did not attend the ceremony either. They were not invited because Anne knew they would not approve. Even those who did attend were not happy about the union.
“He was classless,” one of the 20 wedding guests told Newsday. “A name dropper. You could see that immediately. He was shifty, he had a slimy, weak handshake, didn’t look you straight in the eye, had no conversation, had nothing to say. What could he talk about, house painting? He didn’t speak our language.”
With all the hopes and dreams of newlyweds, Scott and Anne moved in together and started to build a life. He doted on her in public and she joyfully introduced him around to her friends. They began planning to have a child, something both eagerly wanted. Friends and family said there was no indication of the tragedy that would destroy them both.
If Scott expected that he was going to enjoy the life of the idle rich, it didn’t happen. Anne refused to buy him a new BMW, she expected him to continue working, and most of all she expected him to carry his own weight. Family members said that didn’t happen.
“She paid for everything,” said James E. Scripps IV. “He would charge my sister for any kind of job he did in the house. If he was painting houses, what did he do with his money?”
Anne paid the household expenses and the entertainment bills, others said.
“She thought he would share in the cost of the house, but he acted like a gigolo,” Anne’s friend Gretchen Devlin recalled. “She was used to being treated like a lady.”
Money, or more accurately, Anne’s control over it, caused fights. Once, in front of a group of friends, Scott screamed at Anne: “I’ve gotten more from women I’ve dated two weeks than I’ve gotten from you in two years!”
Anne was adamant about the finances. Her money was her money and that was that. He wanted a joint checking account. She refused. The Scripps family kept Scott in the dark about finances as much as possible. The secrecy went both ways. Scott kept two different checking accounts with different Social Security numbers. He struck back at what he saw as Anne’s attempts to keep him subjugated by refusing to tell her where he was going or when he would be back. Scott would leave in the middle of the night or work until midnight giving vague answers about who he was with and what he was doing.
Scott was never able to fit in with the Scripps family, but it’s unfair to say it was totally his fault. He told his friends he felt the Scripps never thought he could do anything right and that filtered down to their acquaintances. He said he never wanted to live the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” but was more interested in a “Brady Bunch” happily-ever-after scenario.
The relationship of Scott Douglas and his stepdaughter Alexandra Morell became rocky, and Scott eventually forced Alexandra to move out. This was the first step in isolating Anne from her friends and family. It would not be the last.
After the birth of their child, Victoria, the fighting intensified. The added stress of a newborn, combined with the secrets, suspicions and jealousy already in place made the environment fertile for evil. It soon sprouted and took root.
Secrets and Lies
In a very short time the marriage was troubled and everyone knew it. Curiously, those who lived near Scott’s Greenwich office/apartment didn’t know the marriage was in trouble. In fact, they didn’t know he was married at all. Police said Scott was frequently seen in movie theaters and restaurants with his female clients.
“He used to party a lot,” said his friend Tom Linsenmeyer, who furnished paint and supplies to Scott’s business. “There was never any mention of his wife.”
The lies he told Anne were revealed. He told her he was Jewish and that his mother was dead. Neither was true. He was Episcopalian and his mother was alive and well. The deceptions became so frequent that Anne hired a private investigator to find out the truth about Scott’s past. Whatever the investigator found did not prompt her to leave him.
It should be noted that others strongly disputed these claims of Scott’s “double life.” Anne knew he had the apartment in Greenwich, her lawyer told The New York Times, adding that it was his belief that Scott rarely spent the night there. Others in Greenwich said they never saw Scott with other women in inappropriate venues and that he did not pretend to be a bachelor. A neighbor in Bronxville said Scott told her of his frustration that he was prevented from seeing his 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
He did, however, continue to drive a wedge between Anne and her family and friends. He became suspicious when she was on the phone and when they would take Tory for walks, he was very impatient when Anne stopped to talk with neighbors, friends said. Anne told a few close friends that Scott was paranoid and demeaning, frequently calling her names and accusing her of having affairs.
Scott was becoming increasingly rough as his drinking intensified.
“He used to come home drunk,” Alexandra told People magazine, adding her stepfather was a violent drunk. He would throw furniture and smash glasses, and several times pushed Anne into the wall. Many friends and relatives witnessed his violent behavior at a wedding when Anne was dancing with her former brother-in-law. Scott stormed onto the dance floor and pulled the couple apart, calling Anne a “slut.”
Gretchen Devlin said things were already so bad by that time, Scott had originally not been invited to the wedding because “there were already too many people who wanted to punch him out.”
At a dinner party, Scott slammed Anne’s head into a stone driveway wall in full view of other departing guests, authorities said.
Yet again, others who knew the couple were shocked by the allegations of violence, and one person familiar with Anne’s plans to leave her husband said he did not become violent until the end of the marriage.
“Their relationship was not a Joel Steinberg-Hedda Nussbaum affair,” that person told The New York Times, referring to a notorious New York City abuse case. “As innocent as she may have been, she would not have stayed with a physical threat. She has two grown daughters.”
Anne began talking to close friends in coded messages. “Let’s do lunch,” meant Scott was coming and that she couldn’t talk any more on the phone and that she needed to speak to the friend in person. When things were “okey-dokey,” the exact opposite was true, but Scott was within earshot and Anne couldn’t be truthful on the phone. She told friends she thought Scott had tapped the lines because she found strange wires in the basement.
In the spring of 1991, Anne had had enough and the couple separated, with Anne taking Tory and moving in with Alexandra. She amended her will to give Scott a portion of her trust, but structured it in such a way that he would only receive $6,500 annually, subject to taxes. They did not talk of divorce at the time and for a while, Scott apparently mended his ways.
“He would straighten out for a little while and then go back to his old ways again,” said Anne’s mother, Anne Scripps, 72.
While she feared the physical violence, Anne stayed with Scott for one reason, her former sister-in-law said.
“Anne was terrified of Scott,” said Mary Jane Haggerty, “because he always said that if she tried to leave, he would take Tory and disappear.”
Violence is an equal-opportunity evil; it visits the rich and famous as well as the poor and humble. People tend to think violence is an inner-city or working-class problem, but it is not exclusively. While they may not make up the majority, wealthy killers aren’t hard to find in prison. In the graveyard, wealthy victims are even easier to find.
In July 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report based on a nationwide survey of Americans that demonstrated how pervasive domestic violence was in U.S. society.
“Nearly 25 percent of surveyed women and 7.6 percent of surveyed men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime; 1.5 percent of surveyed women and 0.9 percent of surveyed men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a partner in the previous 12 months,” reported Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes in Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence. “According to these estimates, approximately 1.5 million women and 834,732 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.”
The rate of fatal violence among intimate partners continues to drop from the high of 3,000 in 1976 to about 1,300 in 2000, where it has hovered for the past few years.
There is a great deal of literature devoted to the study of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. Much of it tries to understand what drives a formerly loving couple to become violent. Social scientists have generally accepted that the use of violence, fatal and otherwise, is the result of emotions like anxiety, anger, helplessness, humiliation, shame, guilt, jealousy, hostility, low self-esteem, and a sense of loss. These emotions lead to “an imbalance and subsequent experience of loss of control and loss of ability to predict, plan and channel one’s life course. Under such conditions, violence becomes a perceived means to acquire a sense of power and control,” wrote Zeev Winstok, Zvi Eisikovits and Richard Gelles in Families in Society.
An abuser does not go from the negative emotional state directly to violence, psychologists theorize, but escalates over time through a series of interactions with the victim that create a vicious cycle of despair. Authorities disagree over what paths these interactions take and the factors that lead to a violent confrontation, but there is general agreement that escalation requires a threat and response to it by counter-threats.
Winstok, Eisikovits and Gelles have broken down the path from calm to violence into distinct sections, each with its own opportunities for control and de-escalation. This model of domestic violence fits in with other generally accepted theories of violent behavior that maintain violent actors have a choice about acting on their feelings. The Winstok, et al. model describes the phases of calm, where the aggressor may experience moments of anger due to conflict with the potential victim. The authors refer to the aggressor as male and the victim as female.
“When escalation is avoided at this point, the woman’s self-confidence and trust in her partner is reaffirmed,” they write. “However if it turns out to be a true alarm, and the man expresses anger, the process is headed towards the second juncture. In this eventuality, the woman tends to perceive her partner’s behavior as normative—’after all, men get angry from time to time.’”
This second juncture is angry confrontation, with the man still in control of his emotion. “When the man’s anger is held under check, the woman is likely to perceive him as strong, since he is able to overcome expected loss of control. However, if the reins are lost, the process advances to the next juncture,” they write.
“The third juncture identified is the one in which the man loses control over the process. At this point the woman and the anger compete to control the process.” If the woman can control the process, the argument de-escalates and violence is averted. If not, “the man will most likely be overcome by his anger and will be perceived by the woman as being forced to act violently against her. This is the stage at which the couple’s reality becomes permeated by violence, and it is likely to continue as long as anger controls the situation.”
The unfortunate part about the research into domestic violence is that while social scientists have a fairly clear understanding of the causes and the process, for the victim, discovering the keys to de-escalating the conflict is usually a trial-and-error process. Too often, the victim runs out of time before the solutions can be found. Equally problematic is the added variable that alcoholism or other drug abuse adds to the equation.
Anne and Scott’s marriage limped through another couple of years in this drama of threats and fear before coming to a violent conclusion around Christmas 1993. The abuse reached a crescendo in late November and early December before Anne reached out for help.
By November Anne wanted out of the marriage. She approached her family lawyers, and a filing date was set for early 1994, the attorneys said. It is likely that Scott knew this was coming and he took action, hiring a law firm of his own and announcing he was seeking substantial alimony. Friends said Scott wanted a quarter-million dollars to leave the marriage, which Anne agreed to pay, provided it was done through a court-approved agreement. She told friends she was afraid of extortion, using Tory as the means.
In early December, discovering that Scott had removed important personal papers such as Tory’s birth certificate and other records from the house, Anne sought a court order preventing him from harassing her and more importantly, from taking Tory from the house. She did not ask to have him removed from the home and the couple stayed under the same roof.
The situation was critical enough to prompt Anne to seek professional help from a domestic assault shelter, which urged her to leave the situation. She was obviously well-positioned to leave, but Anne was reluctant because moving out could be interpreted in the divorce as abandonment and would weaken her position. Leaving, she feared, would give Scott enough evidence to gain custody of the little girl.
“She was afraid of being beaten,” said Deirdre Akerson of the Westchester Coalition for Family Justice. “She felt she was definitely in danger. She was concerned about finding a way to get him out of the house. I told her if she didn’t feel safe at home, there were shelters. She didn’t seem to think it was necessary.”
Anne told family and friends she feared Scott, but she described emotional and verbal abuse — until just before Christmas. Scott would berate her for gaining weight, he accused her of infidelity and once told her she had given him a sexually transmitted disease. His preferred method of abuse, she told acquaintances, was to awaken her in the early hours of the morning to yell and belittle her.
If she stayed she was in danger. If she fled, she could lose her daughter. A judge could not be found to order Scott’s eviction.
“She was trapped,” her brother told Newsday. “She was absolutely trapped.”
The couple was planning to attend a Christmas Eve party, but instead Anne spent the night in a Bronxville emergency room after a blow from Scott scratched her cornea. She sent a note to a friend about missing the party: “We planned on decking the halls,” she wrote. “Wouldn’t you know I would get decked myself?”
“She said he pushed her down the stairs, had thrown her on the floor and kicked her,” Gretchen Devlin told the press. “She said she put up her hands. She said, ‘Take anything you want, but don’t hurt me anymore. I can’t take it anymore.’ She said he had pulled her hair so hard she thought he was going to pull it right out of her head.”
Anne told Devlin she was sleeping with a hammer beneath her bed for self-defense. Ultimately, her protection would come back to haunt her.
Things continued to deteriorate after Christmas and in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Anne returned to White Plains in an attempt to have Scott evicted from the home. “Because of the holidays, she was bounced between courts in White Plains and New Rochelle without seeing a judge,” The New York Times later reported. The situation was desperate. Police were called to the home several times during December, but based on threats alone, their hands were tied.
In the days between the holidays both Anne and Scott were reported by friends to be depressed. Complaining to a friend, Scott talked about many of the problems in his life and his feelings.
“He said she gives him a hard time, nothing makes her happy. He was gripping onto things. His eyes were bugging out, like he was having a mini-breakdown. He told me about his dad, said he was a professor at Columbia, a bad alcoholic who died in his forties.”
Tappan Zee Bridge
Scott spoke of death and release and said he had a plan to jump off the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River. His friend shook off the threat as deep, but not severe, depression. Scott had never been suicidal before or even hinted at ending his life, so the friend did not take the threat seriously. Besides, Scott was not fond of water and jumping off the bridge did not strike the friend as the way Scott would choose to kill himself.
New Year’s Day would mark the beginning of a new district attorney’s term and domestic violence was a high priority in Jeanine Pirro’s incoming administration. Pirro was a former judge and before that the assistant district attorney who headed Westchester County’s domestic violence bureau, one of the first in the country devoted to this, the most common form of violence in America.
Pirro didn’t even have a chance to sit down in her new office before she was called to the scene of the county’s first domestic violence assault. The call to police came in the early morning hours of the new year. A young woman was worried because she was unable to contact her mother and stepfather. She had already been to their house and no one had answered the door at the family home.
The caller was Anne Douglas’ daughter. It was 3:30 a.m.
Anne Morell had been worried since early New Year’s Eve after her mother and stepfather had engaged in another of their bitter, high-volume shouting matches. Anne had offered to stay with her mother but Anne Douglas declined, saying Scott was “just in another of his moods.”
When the police arrived, they also tried the door and found it locked. They broke in and searched the house.
In Anne’s bedroom they found her unconscious on the bed, the sheets covered with blood. She had been bludgeoned with the claw hammer she kept for protection. The couple’s terrier puppy lay beside her, providing what little comfort it could. Scott Douglas was nowhere to be found. His BMW was missing.
Three-year-old Victoria was asleep in another room. Authorities would come to learn later that Tory had witnessed the brutal assault that left her mother’s skull too badly broken for surgeons to repair.
“Daddy was giving Mommy so many bad boo-boos,” the official police report quotes the toddler as saying. “Daddy gave Mommy many boo-boos. Why is Mommy wearing warpaint?”
Later she asked her grandparents, “Is Mommy an angel in heaven? Does Mommy still have boo-boos on her face?”
Immediately the search was on for Scott Douglas. There was no reason to suspect anyone else and when police contacted Scott’s brother, their suspicions were confirmed. Douglas called his brother, Todd, to tell him something had happened at the house. Friends of Anne’s said that he told Todd: “I’ve done something really bad this time.”
In a matter of hours, Scott’s 1982 BMW, the bloody hammer inside, was found idling on the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was empty, so authorities started dragging the icy water to find him. The family and friends of Anne Scripps Douglas told authorities that Scott purchased camping equipment shortly before Christmas and that the car on the Tappan Zee was just a ruse. Authorities began operating on the assumption that Scott was still alive and hiding.
For five days they searched the Hudson River without success and began combing the areas around Bronxville looking for their suspect. His family, however, told the press they believed he had jumped.
The Scripps family offered a $100,000 reward for anyone with information leading to “the arrest and prosecution” of Scott Douglas. It was unlikely, Pirro said, for the body to have surfaced if he did jump off that bridge. “The temperature of the water precludes the gases from expanding. He would not drift to the surface until spring,” she said.
Many people hoped Scott would turn up, hoping for justice.
“We’d all like to have a swing with the claw hammer,” said Sue Boles, one of Anne’s neighbors. “This man has got to pay for what he did.”
As Anne lay in a hospital in upstate New York, her first husband was in the terminal stages of cirrhosis of the liver and had been hospitalized near Philadelphia. Hearing about Anne’s attack, he left his hospital bed to be by her side.
It was obvious to the medical personnel and the Scripps family that nothing could be done for Anne. Her injuries were too severe. A week after the attack — two days after authorities stopped dragging the Hudson for Scott’s body — they disconnected her from life support and she died without regaining consciousness. She was 47 years old.
In death, Anne Scripps Douglas was still able to give. Her liver was transplanted into her ex-husband’s body, saving his life.
“The daughters acted on what they knew would be their mother’s wishes,” said the family’s attorney. “Anne Douglas left this world the way she lived in it — loving, giving.”
In the days after Anne’s death, her family lashed out at authorities who had allowed Scott to remain in the home. Her 72-year-old mother told the press that “this could have been prevented. My daughter would be alive today if that judge hadn’t let him stay there. I think it’s criminal.”
The family alleged that New Rochelle Family Court Judge Ingrid Braslow refused to grant an order barring Scott from the house — in spite of assertions that he beat her and tried to shove her from a car. However, court documents show that these allegations relate to the 1991 case that was not before Braslow. The transcript of the December 6 hearing shows Braslow was not asked to remove Scott. The Scripps later filed an $11 million suit against the county.
Nearly three months passed before there was any break in the case. Authorities were still working on the assumption that Scott Douglas was alive when a railroad employee found his body downstream from where his car was left.
The corpse, in jeans with $507 in a pocket, was found by a Metro-North Railroad mechanic on a bank of the Hudson near the tracks that run along the shore. Pirro announced a positive identification by the New York City medical examiner’s office based on dental records.
The Scripps family greeted the news with relief.
“It was a surprise, but the nightmare is over,” said Anne Devoy Morell.
“We don’t have to worry about him coming after us or Tori,” said Alexandra Scripps Morell.
Holly Marie Combs (left), Roxanne
Hart, Sarah Chalke (right) in
‘Our Mother’s Murder.’
Hart, Sarah Chalke (right) in
‘Our Mother’s Murder.’
In 1997, a docudrama called “Our Mother’s Murder” was filmed about the case, starring Roxanne Hart as Anne Scripps Douglas, Holly Marie Combs as Alexandra Morrell and Sarah Chalke as Annie Morell.
The Scripps family went on to rebuild their lives, the holidays forever marred by the violence of that New Year’s Eve. Authorities re-examined “the system” which seemed to have failed Anne Douglas and made changes. The modifications in the way Westchester County dealt with domestic violence would prevent a similar occurrence from happening, authorities hoped.
The authorities were wrong and the circumstances that dashed their hopes were chillingly familiar.
In 1998, 19-year-old Hilda Uguna, fearing for her life, sought a protective order against her husband, a man who slept with a knife and threatened to kill her. But because her request in family court did not meet the precise legal criteria for an emergency order, her plea was rejected, and her case was postponed until October.
The delay proved deadly: five days after the emergency order was denied, her husband made good on his threats.
According to police reports, Luis Uguna, 27, a landscaper, stabbed his wife, a factory worker, many times in her chest and neck before stabbing himself twice in the chest and jumping to his death from the fourth-floor apartment where the Ecuadorian immigrant family lived. Two of their young children, an 8-month-old son and a 2-year-old daughter, saw the slaying, the police said.