When Mel Blasberg describes his daughter, Erica, she sounds too good to be true. The professional golfer was beautiful, talented, and charming.
“One of the hardest things about losing Erica,” he says, his voice clutching with emotion, “obviously she was my daughter and a wonderful golfer, but I was also an admirer. I admired her so much.
“The most beautiful thing about Erica was not her (physical) beauty. It was just her viewpoint at almost everything she did. She impacted people in an amazing way. It’s what I admired about her. She was as unassuming as the girl next door and came across that way.”
Even now, three months after her death, I feel the grieving father can barely believe his daughter is gone.
“Every day gets worse for me,” he says, “but I’m learning to cope with it.”
He lives with a pain no parent should experience — the agony of losing his Erica to suicide.
As if the hole in his heart isn’t deep enough, the father faces trying to find the whole truth about what happened to his daughter on May 9 inside her residence at 2620 Hotel DeVille Terrace in Henderson. Although Mel Blasberg doesn’t dispute the suicide ruling of the Clark County coroner, he remains enraged by the suspicious actions of Dr. Thomas Hess.
Hess has been charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice after removing a suicide note and some prescription drugs from the residence.
Hess, who called 911 from Erica Blasberg’s home, later told police, “I know doing that was, was stupid, but I was trying to save some embarrassment for her,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit. “I have no idea. I mean that, that whole thing was a, was a fuzz for me.”
It’s considerably less fuzzy for Mel Blasberg. He doesn’t believe the married Hess, whom he suspects was trying to save himself from the exposure of an embarrassing entanglement. He believes Hess’ actions not only defy logic, but showed callous disregard for Erica and her family. Far from selfless sensitivity, the doctor’s moves reek of self-centeredness.
“Don’t you think every parent would want to know what his child was thinking?” he asks.
“Erica didn’t have to die. Everything was fine with her until that night. What happened? Don’t you think we are entitled to know what happened?”
To that end, Blasberg recently hired the Marquis & Aurbach law firm to pursue the facts surrounding the incident. Erica Blasberg died from asphyxia and toxic levels of prescription medication. Although attorney Terry Coffing wouldn’t go into details and won’t reveal the specific contents of the suicide letter, he offers, “She clearly felt disrespected and used.” Coffing also notes the potential ethical quagmire if it is determined the doctor was having a relationship with a patient who felt troubled enough to take her own life.
Mel Blasberg is more blunt.
“I believe there was a relationship that went beyond being patient-doctor,” he says. “It’s only recently, after meeting with police and the coroner, that it became clear to me it was a personal relationship.
“They told me, if it wasn’t intimate, it was very close. Clearly, by that definition it was an inappropriate relationship on the part of Dr. Hess. It was also unethical.”
Officially, the extent of the relationship remains unclear. Whether Hess was merely a friend or a treating physician hasn’t been made public. But as a physician, he would have had a professional and ethical obligation to act if he knew Erica Blasberg was in a critical crisis.
“In my mind, what he’s said just can’t stand up to any type of scrutiny,” Mel Blasberg says.
Call them the angry words of a grieving father, but Mel Blasberg won’t rest until he gets some answers.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.