Poisoned Apple: What happened to Aunt Diane?


Image courtesy HBO

The official HBO poster of “There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane,” a documentary from 2011.

In light of the Patriots Drive Safe SGA Spring Project, this true crime documentary about Diane Schuler is also a story that students can learn from. 

On Sunday, July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler set off in her car toward home on Long Island, a drive she had made numerous times before. Five young children were in the car as well: her son, her daughter and three nieces. For nearly two miles, Schuler was driving the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway. She eventually crashed into an oncoming SUV, which ended up killing herself and seven others.

As one of the worst motor-vehicle accidents in New York State history, the tragedy quickly became national news. Her actions on that day, and in the past, were thrust under careful scrutiny by the public. Diane Schuler was portrayed by the news as a reckless drunk and a mother who carelessly put her own children in danger. But so many who knew Schuler described her as the perfect wife and mother, and so the desperate hunt for answers began. 

About a week after her deadly crash, Shulers’s toxicology report revealed she had a blood-alcohol content of .19%. According to DUI Driving Laws, this is the equivalent of 10 drinks; more than twice the legal limit. She also tested positive for marijuana use. In sharp contrast to the toxicology report, Schuler had no known history of substance abuse or psychological problems and was generally known as a loving and stable wife and mother.

Nearly two years after the accident, There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane, a documentary on HBO, reveals previously unknown information about that day, and sheds light on the unknown side of Schuler. A wife and mother, who was also a cable TV executive, emerges in the film as a woman who strove to be perfect, often referred to as “supermom” by friends and family. This contrasts with the aftermath of her actions. 

The film follows Diane’s husband and sister-in-law, who have been trying to clear Diane’s name ever since her death. According to the documentary, they simply “cannot reconcile the toxicology results with the loving mother and aunt who would never knowingly endanger her children.”

Guy Bastardi, his father Michael Bastardi, and family friend Daniel Longo, were in the car that crashed head-on into Diane’s vehicle and died shortly after. Bastardi’s daughters, Roseanne Guzzo and Margaret Nicotina, say they have forgiven Diane but find it harder to forgive Daniel and Jay, who seem to them to be in denial about Diane’s accountability.

There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane reveals a complex and complicated case – as opposed to one solved by simple or reductive analysis. This mysterious and shattering tragedy draws the public in, feeling a need to find out what really happened to Aunt Diane.