By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
In fact, evidence did emerge that Frank Fuster had hit his wife. Shirley Blando was a chaplain at the Women's Detention Center, where Ileana was detained during 1984 and 1985. In a sworn deposition, Blando stated that she often talked with Ileana; the two became so close that Ileana called her "Mom Shirley." Sometime after her defense was separated from Frank's, Von Zamft confronted Ileana with some Country Walk parents' statements that they had seen her with a black eye. She then admitted to Blando that Frank had hit her. But she denied that he did so more than once, and according to Blando, the denials were consistent. Moreover, Ileana wrote Frank love letters almost every day and regularly told Blando that he was "a loving husband, that he was good, and that there were no problems."
In contrast, Blando testified, Ileana often told her that "she did not trust her lawyer; how she was afraid of her lawyer.... She would say: 'They want me to say something that is not true, and I cannot say things that are not true.' ...She thought that about the District Attorney [sic]. She thought that about the lawyers for both of them. She thought that everybody wanted her to say: 'I saw my husband do these things,' and that it was the thing that everybody wanted from her."
Around the time Ileana was expressing these protests and distrustfulness, she was placed in an isolation cell at the detention center. She had already spent more than seven months in isolation, and Blando said the earlier experiences had been traumatic for her. According to private investigator Stephen Dinerstein, who frequently visited Ileana in jail, "She couldn't take that. She was often kept under under suicide watch -- kept naked. When I would visit her, the fact that she was in isolation would be half the conversation. She really had it tough. She was just a kid."
In early July, Ileana began to change her story about her one-time black eye. She was now saying that Frank, from whom she'd been separated for almost as long as she had been married to him, had hit her often. Soon she was refusing his mail and no longer calling him. Later that month, according to Hollingsworth, she began claiming that before they were married, Frank "forced" her to have sex -- though she denied that the force included physical harm or even the threat of it. Ileana also said that Frank hit and slapped his son. Now, according to her, Frank Fuster was a wife batterer and a child beater. Yet she continued to insist that no sexual abuse had occurred at the babysitting service.
In further attempts to elicit information from Ileana, Miami psychiatrist and hypnotherapist Dr. Charles Mutter was called in by both prosecutors and defense attorney Von Zamft. Mutter, who has evaluated witnesses and defendants in numerous Florida criminal cases, said in a recent interview that Ileana's "was a very unusual case. This is the first time in my life I was ever called by both the state and the defense to evaluate a person." Mutter conducted at least fourteen sessions with Ileana; in none of them did she ever admit that either she or Frank had sexually abused children.
The psychiatrist considered various methods by which he might prompt Ileana to reveal the truth. He informed her that a lie detector test had found deception when she answered she had neither seen nor been aware of Frank molesting children. Ileana replied that the test might have registered a lie because when asked the question, she thought about a child who once had been scared by a Halloween mask belonging to the Fusters' son.
Mutter even considered hypnotizing her, but decided against it because he concluded that Ileana did not have any amnesia or memory disturbance. Instead he believed that if Frank had molested children, Ileana was denying it either because she truly didn't know about it or because she was afraid of her husband. He also felt that she fit the profile of a battering victim rather than a sex offender.
July turned to August. It was now almost a year after the investigation had begun, and Ileana was still insisting on her and her husband's innocence. "I would tend to believe her," said jail chaplain Blando during her August 1 deposition. Assistant State Attorney John Hogan then asked Blando what the chances were that Ileana "would ever take the stand and say: 'Frank abused the children, and I did not say anything because I was afraid of him.'"
"I do not believe that she would, and there is nothing to indicate to me that she would do that," Blando answered,
"...because her feeling and belief is that she did not see him do those things.... She will only testify to what she sees as being true -- to the truth, and what she believes is the truth."
Regardless of Blando's assessment, the push to convict Frank Fuster by having his wife testify against him was in high gear. Psychologist Norman Reichenberg, who had examined Ileana in late July, testified in a deposition that her basic functioning was that of "an extremely needy child" who "would have come under the domination of Francisco Fuster while living with him" and "done things that she would normally not have done if he demanded it of her."