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Nurse's inaction appears inconsistent

Why she didn't halt the boot camp beating is a puzzle to many who say she went by the book.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published December 2, 2006


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PANAMA CITY - In the now infamous video, boot camp nurse Kristin Anne Schmidt stands out.

The only woman in a crowd of dark-clad guards, Schmidt wears a white lab coat and stethoscope. She looks on as drill instructors repeatedly strike 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. She doesn't intervene when he's forced to inhale ammonia. Even as his limbs hang limp, she does nothing to stop the rough behavior.

Schmidt is one of eight camp employees charged with manslaughter this week in the teen's death, and at least one of the guards' attorneys blames her.

"I certainly think she's largely responsible for it," said Waylon Graham, attorney for Lt. Charles Helms Jr. "These officers look to her for guidance, and she failed them miserably."

Performance reviews, her resume and her court records portray Schmidt as a competent professional noted for following rules. A divorced mother of two, 53-year-old Schmidt's only mark downs in evaluations dealt with tardiness over child care issues. Other than a $250 fine for incorrect medical charts at a psychiatric facility, her record is clean. She never won big honors, but she doesn't have major career blemishes. She fit in easily at the camp, did everything "by the book," her supervisor wrote.

When she applied for the boot camp, she wrote that she already had a useful skill. She knew about restraint techniques, something learned by working with psychiatric patients. Her interviewer wrote she seemed to be "a mature, intelligent, over active, honest individual of good moral character."

Schmidt did not return several interview requests. Reached during a break in court proceedings, attorney Jim Appleman said he didn't have time to talk.

Came to Tampa in '80

Her nursing license is still active, state records show. State Department of Health spokesman Fernando Senra said only that the board is "taking this very seriously."

Born in Pottsville, Pa., Schmidt began her medical career at 17, working part time at Pennsylvania hospital, according to her personnel file. Back then, her name was Kristin Dorward. She started college at Syracuse University in New York, then switched to Alfred University School of Nursing, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1979. Alfred is also in New York.

After graduation she worked in Boston and at a veterans' hospital in upstate New York before moving to Tampa in 1980, where she worked on the surgical floor at Town 'N Country Hospital and a nursing home. She got her Florida nursing license in January 1981. On April 14, 1981, she married Charles F. Schmidt, also a registered nurse.

She then worked at the Anneewakee hospital in Carrabelle. In a letter to the Bay County Sheriff's Office, an Anneewakee co-worker praised Schmidt's skills and personality.

"Kristin is rarely ill or absent from work and dependable could be her middle name," wrote nurse Amy Ellison. "Her pleasant personality and ready smile make busy evenings enjoyable. I give my highest recommendation to Kristin Schmidt knowing there is no challenge too great for her to conquer."

Schmidt then took a job at the Florida State Hospital, where she worked from 1986 to 1991, her longest steady job before the boot camp.

The couple moved to Panama City in the early 1990s. By then, the Schmidts had two children, J. Vincent Schmidt, now 21, and Vanessa Michelle Schmidt, now 18. Mrs. Schmidt took a job at Rivendell Psychiatric Center. On her resume, she wrote she assisted in the intensive care unit, passed out medications and helped with group therapy.

In 1992, Charles Schmidt filed for divorce, Bay County court records show. He accused his wife of having a three-month affair with another man, one of her co-workers at Rivendell.

The divorce became final that fall. A judge gave Kristin Schmidt primary custody of the children. The couple divided up several timeshare homes and their vehicles, and Kristin Schmidt kept the couple's home on Gabriel Street.

Charles Schmidt could not be reached for comment. After the divorce, he moved to Hawaii and to Guam, where he worked for a naval hospital. In 2002, he quit nursing because of depression problems, records show.

At the time of the divorce, Kristin Schmidt also got in trouble at work. The state Department of Professional Regulation found that she gave three Rivendell patients medicine but never wrote down her actions. In 1993, the board fined her $250, records show.

From then on, Schmidt worked several short stints at health care offices in Panama City. None appear to have been significant. The administrator of one company, Lisenby Home Care, whose motto is "Love, Health and Care," said she didn't remember Schmidt and didn't want to be associated with the matter.

Got good evaluations

On June 30, 1994, Schmidt began work at the boot camp, a small facility just north of downtown. Her starting salary was $20,800. According to sheriff's records, Schmidt fit naturally into the boot camp order. Her personnel file is a thick stack of praise for her attentiveness and her understanding of camp rules. In 2000, her evaluator wrote Schmidt "is a rule follower which helps things flow better."

In her 2005 evaluation, Capt. Mike Thompson said Schmidt was "a long-time employee that does her job well." By then, she made $38,155. Her children were nearly grown. Vincent played high school football, Vanessa did gymnastics and sang.

The family had moved to a rental home about 15 minutes away in Panama City Beach. The peach, ranch-style home sits among mobile homes and small houses sandwiched between two busy beach boulevards that beckon tourists with all-you-can-eat seafood, go carts and souvenirs. The house is decorated with icicle Christmas lights.

On Friday afternoon, Vincent worked on a red Jeep raised on blocks in the driveway.

His mother wasn't home, he said.

The site of the boot camp is quiet now. Razor wire is still threaded through its fence, but part of the tarp shielding the yard has fallen down. Weeds grow in the dirt where Anderson collapsed.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 813 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.

[Last modified December 2, 2006, 01:31:15]


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