By Chuck Strouse
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Sullivan, Drees's lawyer, called the Getmans. Vivian immediately asked that an autopsy be conducted. She says Sullivan initially agreed to file the necessary paperwork, then backed off. She said he told her his law partners viewed it as a conflict of interest for him to authorize that. The autopsy was never performed.
The day the Getmans arrived in Miami, Sullivan read them Drees's will. "My reaction was öOh...My...God,'" Vivian recalled for New Times. "I immediately thought he had influenced her into doing this, leaving him everything."
That night the Getmans went out to the Chart House restaurant with Sherrin Smith and decided to protest the will. Smith agreed to help in any way she could. The Getmans filed a "Petition for Revocation of Probate Will" in March 2001. After more than a year, they settled.
"It just cost too much," Vivian Getman says. "I spent about $20,000 in lawyer's fees and they said it would be another $5000 to $6000 to do an autopsy."
As a result of the case, though, Smith says she found out she had been a beneficiary in a previous will. So when the Getmans dropped their case, she filed her own petition.
While working on her case, Smith went through the medications Brady had prescribed Drees, and wondered if they were safe to take while drinking alcohol, which Drees famously consumed every day. She took her findings to the Miami Police Department. Homicide detective Emiliano Tamayo opened a file. "A suspicious death investigation is presently being conducted by the City of Miami Police Department Homicide Unit regarding the death of Viola Drees," Tamayo stated in an affidavit on April 2 of this year. "Her death was unattended and a major beneficiary, the personal physician of the decedent, Dr. Aloysius Henry Brady signed off on the death certificate."
But without an autopsy, the case has stalled.
In April, circuit court Judge Arthur Rothenberg, in a summary judgment, ruled against Smith, stating that the evidence showed "the decedent possessed the testamentary capacity necessary to execute her will."
Smith has appealed the ruling.
In the days after Drees's death, Vivian Getman had to ask permission to go into her aunt's house. She went once to pick up a cookbook, some lace handkerchiefs, and some frying pans that had belonged to her grandmother. The second time she went to the house Dr. Brady made it clear he wanted appraisals on anything before it left the premises.
In June of this year, Dr. Brady took title of the house. In August he asked the caretaker living upstairs to move out. He was getting ready, he explained, to put the home on the market.