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February 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 27, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Did This Divemaster Commit Suicide, or Was She Silenced?

from the February, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A divemaster who was found shot to death last month in her Spokane, WA home had been named in a second million-dollar diving negligence lawsuit two weeks before her death.

Kim Schmidt, 34, and the scuba company where she gave lessons were allegedly responsible for two diving accidents that left their students with brain damage. Police detectives are wondering if the thought of defending her second dive-related lawsuit prompted Schmidt to commit suicide, or if her death was a way of silencing the testimony she would offer at trial. Schmidt was discovered inside her home by her mother. A pistol was found nearby, and investigators were thinking suicide, until they noted that Schmidt's body appeared to have been moved after she was shot.

At the time of her death, Schmidt was romantically involved with another dive instructor named Dan Arteaga, who, along with Scuba Center of Spokane, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. In 2008, Schmidt and Arteaga were giving Spokane resident John Gray an openwater dive lesson in Puget Sound. Gray became separated from the group in poor visibility and drowned. "We believe if there had been somebody with him, whatever problems he encountered, they would have been able to bring him back to the surface and keep him from falling unconscious and drowning," said Susan Nelson, the prosecuting attorney.

Attorneys representing Gray's estate say the same thing happened again in 2010, when Kimela Wyssman nearly drowned. Wyssman, who suffered brain damage, also filed suit. Arteaga and Schmidt found out about her lawsuit in mid-December, and Schmidt was found dead in her home on January 1. Spokane County Sheriff's deputies say they have questioned Arteaga about Schmidt's death, but have not named him as a suspect.

Meanwhile, Spokane's medical examiner has not ruled Schmidt's death as either a suicide or homicide. She is waiting for detectives to provide her with more information.

- - from a report by Jeff Humphreys, KXLY4, Spokane

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