The Oddest Couple

He was thin, she was fat. He was passive, she was pushy. He's alive, she's dead.

Grainger never sat in during Sonia's meetings with Rudine, and the therapist described him in testimony as gruff and unfriendly. "He made me fairly nervous," Rudine said. "He seemed fairly hostile to my being there."

Sonia was usually lying on the bed, propped up on an elbow, a sheet covering her. Rudine said that Sonia had scrapes on her face and sores on her mouth. Sonia told her she had fallen and suffered carpet burns. Rudine said she was lucid and intelligent and had a sense of humor.

The pair discussed her relationship with Mike, and Rudine testified that Sonia felt that "he was against her now--[that she was] lazy and had given up."

Mike was elsewhere in the house during these sessions. When they were over, Sonia would call for him to bring the checkbook, and she would write a check to Rudine.

By Rudine's third visit, the therapist told the court, Sonia was much worse. Wearing an oversized T-shirt and leggings, she was "sitting up in a chair. One ankle was very purple, both feet were swollen, one quite reddish." Sonia told Rudine that she had fallen. Rudine thought her ankle might be sprained or broken and told her to see a doctor.

Rudine testified that she and Sonia talked about domestic violence. According to Rudine's testimony, Sonia said that her first husband, Terry Kucera, had beaten her but that Mike did not. However, she said, he did verbally abuse her.

Mike admits that the two argued: "You could cut it with a knife, the tension, the stress." But there were no "knock-down-drag-out fights," he says. "I had no weight; she was the boss."

The Monday before her death, Sonia had a long phone conversation with her daughter, Tonia. The two had rarely seen each other after Tonia had gone to live with Terry Kucera, but they had been talking by phone more often.

Friends of Sonia's are dubious of the last-minute rapprochement with Tonia and of Tonia's decision to sue for part of the railroad settlement. They say that Sonia never had anything good to say about her daughter and was convinced she didn't deserve any of her money. "Suddenly she's a caring daughter?" Rachetts asks. "Guess who wasn't ever there? Sonia once told me, 'Make sure Tonia never gets her hands on my jewelry. She'll hawk it all.'"

Tonia Kucera declines to comment about her relationship with her mother. But at the preliminary hearing in October, she told the court that the last time she and her mother talked, Sonia was out of breath getting to the phone. Sonia blamed it on an anxiety attack, not her weight. However, she also told her daughter that she had recently fallen off the toilet and had to wait for Mike's return to get back up.

Tonia testified that Sonia also told her Mike was spending more time at home to care for her, but that he actually spent little time with her. More often, Tonia quoted her mother as saying Mike was out walking his four dogs.

"She told me she didn't want to live anymore," Tonia said. "I told her I didn't want to hear that kind of talk. She told me that she had no one to love her. Not me, not Mike. She said that if she died, people would think of her in passing, but she wouldn't be remembered, it wouldn't be a big thing to us."

By Rudine's fourth visit on January 31, 1995, Sonia was worse. Rudine says her breath came in gasps, her lips were purple and she had a large bruise on her arm. "She seemed shaky," Rudine said. "I asked how she was doing. She gasped, 'Not good at all.' She looked to me like she needed to be hospitalized."

Rudine later testified that she didn't think Sonia was in imminent danger but asked her if she would go to a hospital. Sonia told her that she didn't believe in doctors and would allow only Dr. Shapiro to pay her a house call.

Rudine asked again about Mike. "Things were getting much worse," Rudine testified. Sonia, she said, told her "he had been yelling at her and insulting her a lot." The couple had gone through marriage counseling before and had had some success with it; Sonia wanted to try again, but Mike didn't. "Part of her really wanted help," Rudine said, "but she was afraid of going out."

But Rudine said nothing to Mike, figuring that he "knew what was going on; he lived with her." A week before Sonia's death, says Schild, Mike put in a call to a local hospital seeking medical attention for Sonia because she was falling down more regularly. But she called the hospital afterward and declined treatment.

The next day, Wednesday, February 1, Rudine tried calling the Graingers to confirm that Shapiro would visit that Thursday. Rudine says the line was busy for an hour and a half and she couldn't get through. She tried one last time at around 9:30 p.m.

The Boulder Fire Department got Mike Grainger's 911 call at 8:01 a.m. on February 2. Paramedics could do nothing to revive Sonia. Police were dispatched a few minutes later.

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