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YOUNGSTOWN Videos used in Giancola lawsuit



Published: Thu, September 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Boardman man said no one ever told him what to do if his wife had a relapse.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A sad smile crossed John Giancola's lips as he looked at home video of his twin children on Christmas Eve 1994.

Giancola leaned forward, his eyes growing wide, then filling with tears from images and sounds on the video. He could watch for only a few moments before having to leave the courtroom where the video was being shown to a jury.

It was the first time he'd seen the video since the 3-year-old twins, Jonathan and Rebecca, were killed in March 1997.

Giancola, 44, of Boardman, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Forum Health Northside Medical Center, alleging that doctors and nurses in the psychiatric unit failed to properly care for his then-wife, Annette Giancola, who drowned the twins in the bathtub of their Canfield Township home.

Annette Giancola was found innocent by reason of insanity in the children's deaths and has been in a psychiatric institution ever since.

Jurors also were shown video of the children's second and third birthday parties and the family's 1995 Christmas Eve festivities. Family members wept in the back of the courtroom as they watched.

Giancola's lawyer, Skip Simpson of Dallas, said the videos were necessary to prove to jurors that a loving relationship existed among family members.

Giancola testified that his family was normal and happy for the first few years of marriage.

In mid-1996, Annette Giancola's behavior and demeanor began to change, he said. She became lethargic, worried about nonexistent financial problems, suffered panic attacks and talked about committing suicide, he said.

What occurred

One evening in October 1996, Giancola said he came home from work to find his wife lying on their bedroom floor, staring into space and saying that police had been looking in the windows and were coming to take the children away.

After consulting with a local psychiatrist, Giancola took Annette to Northside, where she was admitted for four days.

He said no one from the hospital gave him information about his wife's psychotic condition, or said that it could recur, or told him what to do if it did come back.

Giancola said that when he left for work the morning of March 8, 1997, his daughter was riding a toy horse and his son was sitting in a rocking chair watching a video.

Shortly after he arrived at work, Annette called and said she had drowned the children. He drove home from his job in Howland at speeds near 100 mph, he said.

Giancola found Annette lying on the kitchen floor, where she had lain after stabbing herself in the chest. He found the children in the bathtub and called 911.

In his opening statement, Forum's attorney Marshall Buck questioned why Giancola didn't call authorities before he left work to go home.

"It was natural to do what I did," Giancola said during his testimony. "It wasn't like I had time to consider doing A, B or C. My first instinct was to just get to my family."

Giancola said he has not returned to the house, or even driven down their street, since that day. "I didn't want to relive that trauma," he said.

The trial continues today in the courtroom of Judge Maureen A. Cronin.

bjackson@vindy.com




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