Annie’s father’s brother, George Morell, died in the September 11 attacks, and Tony himself died in 2005 of a heart attack. (Improbably, Tony’s life had been extended after Anne’s murder when he received her liver in a transplant; he’d been waiting for a match, and Alex and Annie made sure their mother’s liver went to him.) But the most difficult fresh blow for Annie came when her son went to live with his father.
Friends say Mikey was anxious about Annie’s drinking and depression. Still, “he really enjoyed being with her,” says Robbie Morell. Then, last year, Mikey began having trouble in school. When the school suggested he might have to be held back, Annie and Paul, her ex-husband, decided it would be better for him to switch school systems. Mikey moved in with Paul and did well in his new school, but Annie was lonelier than ever. “Him being gone,” a friend says, “was killing her.”
Annie told everyone she knew that she wanted normalcy. “She wanted love. She wanted to raise a family,” says Karmilowicz. Recently, she had learned that Paul’s new wife was pregnant. And when Karmilowicz told Annie she was having a fourth child, Annie groaned and said, “Why isn’t this happening to me?”
Annie drank nearly every night now. She’d drop out of contact with friends. At times, she’d mention she was taking mental-health medication, but “she thought people would be critical about it,” a friend says, “so she pushed it under the rug.” Another source says child-protective services had to place Mikey in his father’s custody on several occasions while Annie was hospitalized for alcohol use or depression.
About three years ago, Alex called Robbie Morell in a panic one morning. Annie had taken some Valium she’d ordered from the Internet. “She said, ‘I don’t know who to turn to,’ ” Robbie remembers. “I don’t know exactly how many attempts there were, but she had reached out for help lots of times.” Robbie met Alex at the Arbors and found Annie in bed. As a mental-health counselor, Robbie was compelled to bring Annie in for treatment. Annie first went to a center called Four Winds, then to Silver Hill, a facility in New Canaan where she had been once before.
At Silver Hill, the doctors recommended electroshock therapy, and Annie agreed. “It was her saying, ‘If this is something that’s going to help, I’ll try it,’ ” Robbie remembers. But when Annie came home, she forgot people’s names and things that had happened to her. “We were looking at the photo album one day and she just burst into tears and said, ‘I don’t remember that trip,’ ” says Alex. “I hate that she forgot the good times but always remembered that tragic day.”
Why had Annie so deliberately, almost gothically, chosen to mirror the method of the man who had caused her so much pain? Maybe she was saying she had died that New Year’s Eve along with her mother—that Scott Douglas, in every meaningful way, took her life, too.
Police found a note in Annie’s car. No one knows if Annie wrote it on the spot or beforehand. Annie’s friend and next-door neighbor, Amy Dorsey, who works for the NYPD and has seen countless suicide notes, was struck by Annie’s tone—how certain she seemed. “I don’t even want to call it a suicide note,” she says. “It was a good-bye note.”
Just one page long, written in the curly handwriting of a girl half her age, Annie’s note starts as a letter to her son.
My little Michael, my angel—
I loved you more then [sic] life and will love you forever. I tried to give you everything and always be there. I’m so sorry I let you down. I’ll be your guardian angel and that’s a promise. Be strong my special son, I love you.
There’s a word about Paul and Paul’s parents, some reassurance, then more apologies.
Daddy and Me-ma/Be-ba will always be there. You’ll grow up to be strong and caring. Always smile. I loved you the day you were born. I’m sorry I let you down.
The rest is an impulsive assemblage of shout-outs and acknowledgments. Alex and Alexa, I love you so much. Thank you for the smiles and for never giving up. Next, a quick rueful word to her half-sister: Tori—wish you loved us. Me [sic] certainly loved you. I always missed you. She tells Amy and Chris she loves them, drawing a heart in place of the word love. She asks for someone to find a home for her two dogs and her cat.
And then, in the middle, not given any special placement at all, a request:
Mommy and Daddy, please find me.