"Acquitted by a Jury, but My Ex-Husband Still Thinks I'm Guilty"
May 12, 2014
Heather says despite her acquittal in a criminal trial last year, her ex-husband, Brian, continues to blame her for their 15-year-old son, Brandon’s, accidental overdose death in 2008. Was she aware of Brandon’s drinking and drug use that night? And, how does she respond when her best friend confronts her about her own drug use?
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Accidental OverdoseIn 1999, Heather made headlines, after she was involved in a deadly car crash involving her fiancé, Neil Esposito, a wealthy Connecticut businessman, who was ejected from the vehicle. Prosecutors charged Heather with second-degree manslaughter, claiming she was behind the wheel at the time of the high-speed crash. In 2004, she went on trial and was later acquitted.
In 2008, Heather made headlines again, after her 15-year-old son, Brandon, died of an accidental overdose, in her home. Last year, she was acquitted of manslaughter and negligent homicide charges in connection with Brandon’s death, but she says her ex-husband, Brian, has ruined her life by continuing to blame her.
“She had everything to do with his death,” Brian says. He describes what he believes happened that night, saying, “I wasn't there. So, what I know is Brandon asked Heather to buy him alcohol. She obliged. She bought him beer. She bought him vodka. She picked up one of his friends, Chris. She brought him back to the house. At 12 o’clock, Chris passes out. So, Brandon still wants to continue to drink, so he calls his friend, Travis, who lives down the road. He goes and tells Heather, ‘I’m going to go pick up Travis.' He grabs her keys. She allows it.” He claims that when Brandon returned, he drank some more and then took Heather’s morphine pills from her room. “He crushes them up. They snort them up their nose, and they continue to drink. Travis decides he wants to go home.” He says that Heather testified in court that Brandon was too drunk to drive, so she took Travis home. “She comes back, Brandon is fading in the backseat, as if he wants to sleep. So, she comes inside to get him a pillow and blanket. When she comes inside — and this is the most important part — a 15-year-old, Chris, points out to her that Brandon has consumed a large amount of alcohol, and he points to the prescription medication, and he says, ‘I think we should take him to the hospital.’ I’m sure Heather quickly thought to herself, ‘Boy, if I take him to the hospital, I’m going to be in big trouble, because I supplied this stuff for them.’ So, instead, she decides to grab a pillow and blanket and go check on him every once in a while,” he says. Brian claims that Heather called him instead of dialing 911 when she found Brandon lifeless in the car. “She was hysterical, and she said, ‘I killed my baby. I killed my baby,’” he says.
Heather denies all of Brian's allegations and insists that there was no way she could have saved Brandon.
“Why would you, the custodial parent, consciously put [Brandon] with someone, who you felt was inadequate to take care of him?” Dr. Phil asks Brian. "This happened on your watch."
“There’s a difference between being inadequate and being a loser,” Brian says, claiming that Heather would sleep until 3 p.m. daily.
“Because I was sick … I’ve had 80 surgeries,” she responds. “All he’s doing is lying.”
“You’re telling me, as the custodial parent, you’ve got a woman over here sleeping until 3 o’clock in the afternoon and having problems, and you consciously send your son there?” Dr. Phil asks Brian.
“Did I think she would ever do what she did? Did I think that she was capable of … killing her son?” Brian says.
“You’re making a distinction without a difference, in my opinion,” Dr. Phil says. “If you’re the custodial parent, it’s your responsibility to make sure he’s in the right environment, and you put him in that environment.”
When asked where he thought his son was getting the drugs and alcohol, Brian says, “Heather and I ... worked together to get him help. We went to counseling together. We put him in [the] hospital together.”
Heather disagrees. “He went to a psychologist, after you broke his nose, and they gave him medication. You told him, ‘You don’t need that.’ So, he couldn’t sleep,” she says. “That put him in horrible depression — on your clock, Brian, not on mine.”
After the parents argue, Brian says that they had joint custody, but he had primary residency of Brandon. "If I thought my ex-wife was capable of what she did that night, if I thought that she was that bad, I never would have sent him to the house," he says.
“So, you knew that your son was drinking that night … why was that OK with you?” Dr. Phil asks Heather.
“It wasn’t OK with me,” she responds.
“What did you do about it?” he asks.
“I took Travis home. I poured the vodka down the drain,” she says. “You’ve got to keep in mind, Dr. Phil, I should not have even been in that situation.”
“I’m just asking you what you did once you were in the situation,” he says.
“It’s not illegal to have alcohol in your house,” she says.
“I didn’t ask you for an interpretation of the law, I asked you if you knew your minor son was drinking, in your house that night, and you said yes,” he says.
“I did, but I did not think that he had to go to the hospital,” she says. “I did not think he was at that point.” She defends herself, saying, “I have been in the news for the last 10 years, and I’ve had 80 surgeries. So, if I’m slurring a little bit, I may be a little nervous, Dr. Phil. I’m in front of all these people, and the whole world, trying to tell everybody about [Brian’s] abuse to my child, that put him in a depression, when he should have gotten help for him, when I was too sick.”
A Best Friend’s ConcernHeather’s longtime friend, Bernice, claims that prior to taping the show, Heather embarrassed her by cursing out the airline and hotel staff, among other behaviors. When Heather denies the accusations, Bernice responds, “Heather, you embarrassed me the whole time we were here; and last night, what you did to me … and my 11-year-old son, is unforgivable.”
“After my son died, I wanted to die with him,” Heather says. “I was on 160 milligrams of morphine, because to wean off of Oxycontin is a horrible wean.” She continues, “I did not want to go on morphine because that’s what my son died from, because he learned it from his father to snort it up his nose.”
“You could have told your doctor, ‘I don’t want morphine. My son died,’” Bernice tells Heather, who insists she told her doctor that information. “You did not, Heather. If you told her that she wouldn’t be giving you morphine.” She adds, “I almost lost my best friend last night … Heather, you died on me. I believed you stopped breathing.”
“I’m done with you,” Heather tells Bernice.
“I know you’re going to hate me, Heather, and I’m OK with that, because once you realize that you have a problem, once you admit that you have a problem, and once you get help, I will be there for you,” Bernice responds.