By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
Diaz recounts a litany of complaints: stiff joints, headaches, pain in her kidneys, numbness, intense thirst, chills, sinusitis, fatigue, sore throats, weight loss and insomnia. Some of her symptoms were bizarre. She'd lie down to go to sleep and feel the backs of her eyes "shaking."
A few of the ailments could be readily identified: carpal tunnel syndrome and an injured ankle that resulted in surgery after Briana was born. But following the flu shot, Diaz visited multiple physicians -- including an endocrinologist, a rheumatologist, a gynecologist, a dermatologist, a neurologist and an orthopedist -- to find out what was wrong with her. They ran blood tests and MRIs but could find no physiological cause of her pain.
One morning in February 2002, she awoke early feeling "like somebody was pushing on my head," she says. "And then, like my joints started hurting again, and I felt like I was going to pass out." She drove herself to a hospital, where she was treated for dehydration.
A few days later, feeling she was having a heart attack, Diaz made another ER visit, calling paramedics when Angel refused to take her. She describes the attending physician as "really, really rude." After suggesting she might have a ruptured cyst, the doctor did a "really rough and hard" vaginal exam.
The doctor "started doing all kinds of things down there, like, I could feel him like rubbing he never even told me whether I had a ruptured cyst or not, he never even mentioned it." The doctor's diagnosis was "Oh, you're just having a panic attack." He prescribed an antianxiety medication.
Diaz was indignant. "I told him, 'I was asleep when all this happened I'm not having a panic attack.' And he didn't want to hear anything I had to say to him." Diaz became convinced that the ER doctor had left something inside her. "It just seemed like for some reason he wanted to, like, somehow hurt me," Diaz says.
Doctors prescribed medications for Diaz; worried about side effects, she rarely took them. She tells Crowder that one antibiotic "made me really thirsty and it made me feel like my body was swelling up and like I couldn't go to the bathroom and like my tongue was getting fat and my face looked fat And it made me really paranoid and scared.
"If I'd go somewhere, people were staring at me and stuff," she continues. "And I had even told my husband when I go to pick up my daughter from school, there's this lady she always keeps turning around like that and she keeps looking at me, and I don't know why she keeps doing that."
She denies hearing voices of God or Satan or demons, but admits that during an MRI scan of her spine, she heard the machine talking.
"What did it seem like it was saying?" Crowder asks.
"Open up," Diaz says.
Scouring the Internet for information about her symptoms, Diaz became convinced at various times that she had lupus, mad cow disease, internal worms, seizures, multiple sclerosis, thyroid dysfunction, tuberculosis and diabetes. She brushed off any suggestion that her symptoms were psychological, not physical. Diaz turned to alternative medicine, including acupuncture, Chinese herbs and homeopathic remedies.
Between January 2002 and September 2003, Diaz made 90 visits to doctors or alternative therapists for treatment. Her obsessive fear of germs grew worse. She washed her hands ten times an hour. Convinced she suffered from ringworm contracted from her mother, Diaz noticed rashes on her daughters as well.
To cure the ringworm, Diaz began laundering the family's linens daily and spraying Lysol on everything they touched: doorknobs, light switches, faucets, mattresses, even pillowcases. Some things were so contaminated, she thought -- such as pillows and hairbrushes -- that she threw them away. For the rashes, Diaz rubbed mustard seed and papaya on the children's skin and made them drink Chinese herb potions.
Diaz's feelings coincided with other pressures in her life. She defended Misty's problems in school and her adoption of goth-style clothing against Angel's criticism. Diaz felt Angel couldn't see that his son bullied Briana and Kamryn. Most of all, Diaz felt angry that Angel wasn't taking her physical symptoms seriously. Angel would later testify that he "blew off" his wife's constant complaints.
Nothing Diaz did soothed her fears. Seeing similar symptoms in her children, Diaz believed she'd passed on her illnesses to them. Though not a churchgoer, Diaz felt there was a spiritual dimension to their sufferings. She turned to the Internet to learn about Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism.
There she found concrete remedies. Diaz fashioned bracelets from red string and slipped them on the girls' wrists, as recommended in the Kabbalah to ward off the "evil eye" -- negative energies transferred from the unkind stares of others. Diaz saw those kinds of looks from her neighbors, at school, when shopping.
To banish the evil spirits in her house, the Kabbalah recommended sage. Diaz purchased the herb at a health food store and burned it throughout her home while reciting a mystical blessing. She washed her bad dreams off her hands each morning in the manner recommended by the Kabbalah.