SANTA FE, N.M. — She was short, just 5 feet tall without shoes, so she took a foldable step stool.
She took three letters, each typed in uppercase – one to her husband, one to her brother, one to anybody who cared. She placed the letters on the front passenger seat of her red Toyota Corolla along with her driver’s license, health insurance papers, iPhone and a handwritten note with important phone numbers.
She made the 2½-hour drive from Albuquerque to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge early that clear, cold March morning. Once there, she adjusted her cream-colored hat, took off her coat, unlaced her black boots.
She placed the step stool next to the railing, away from families of tourists who had come to view the 650-foot-deep chasm of rock and river.
She was gone before anybody could stop her.
A witness told a Taos County sheriff’s deputy that the tiny woman hadn’t jumped.
“She just went over,” he said.
That’s how it ended on March 8 for Susan Gerard, a 70-year-old therapist whose profession had been to help people navigate the troubled waters that she herself could not survive.
In part, she blamed the president of the United States.
“My own life is beyond horrible and the situation with Trump and how he is destroying our country is unbearable,” she wrote in one of the goodbye letters obtained by the Journal.
She blamed her brother, lashing out at him for past sibling transgressions and bemoaning how as a result she was not destined to have a “decent life and be able to live comfortable as Mom and Dad would have wanted for me.”
But she saved her biggest salvo for her husband, Andrew Ross, and the “horrific ordeal” of lawsuits and appeals that he had masterminded and that had sucked dry her life savings and her will to live.
“The thought of going to the supreme court and then back to the lower courts for trials is unbearable,” she wrote. “I cannot bear the financial costs or additional emotional torture.”
If the name Andrew Ross sounds familiar, it’s because I and my colleagues at Journal North have for the past two years attempted to condense the volumes of stunning allegations Ross, a 70-year-old disbarred attorney, has alleged against seemingly everybody from an unassuming neighbor to Attorney General Hector Balderas in jurisdictions from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and in federal court.
It was a scandal as big as Watergate, the lawsuits have contended, and involved what Ross, through his attorney Arash Kashanian, claimed was a Santa Fe court-centered crime syndicate rivaling those portrayed in “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas” movies paired with a lesbian sisterhood of judges, law enforcement officers, officials with legal disciplinary boards and an insurance company – and it all began when Gerard and Ross were evicted from their rental home in south Santa Fe over a number of alleged violations, chief among them failure to immediately report a broken upstairs toilet that leaked through the floor and the ceiling below for so long that the ceiling cracked.
The first eviction notice came March 8, 2016, a year to the day before Gerard took her life.
For a time last year, it seemed Ross might abandon his legal fight after U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Kelly Jr. approved a final judgment in August and then an amended final judgment in October ordering Ross and attorney Kashanian to evenly split paying back $52,041.18 plus interest in legal fees to the remaining nine defendants, including Balderas.
Kashanian is also facing possible sanctions from the state Disciplinary Board. He has since withdrawn as Ross’ attorney.
But Ross, acting now as his own attorney, is not ready to call it quits.
“They can put me in debtor’s prison, if they want,” he said this week. “As long as I’m breathing, I’m going to be fighting this case. I hope to get justice eventually.”
So far, he has filed three efforts to be let out of Kelly’s judgment. All three have been denied.
Last month he filed a federal lawsuit against Kelly, alleging that the now-retired judge violated his civil rights under the First, Fourth and 14th amendments.
In November, he filed a $10 million wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against the psychiatrist both he and Gerard were seeing, accusing the doctor of failing to prevent Gerard from harming herself.
Also pending are three separate appeals stemming from a 2017 civil case filed in the state District Court at Santa Fe that arose from the initial eviction.
And what should have been a simple probate case has turned into a re-litigation of the eviction (a “fraud” from the start, Ross says) and a denouncement of the Santa Fe landlady and her attorney, both of whom Ross intimates in court proceedings had a hand in Gerard’s “felony murder” – an outlandish claim, given the circumstances of her death and the words she left behind.
“What I really wanted to do was to just settle the lawsuits at this point, but that is not financially feasible” she wrote in her letter to Ross. “If I had the money I would do just that and have this whole horrific ordeal over with.”
No judge has been able to stop Ross. And neither, it appears, can Gerard, dead or alive.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.