Scarborough aide dies
Police have found no evidence of foul play in the death of Lori Klausutis.
By JEFF AYRES, Daily News Staff Writer
An employee of U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough was found dead in the congressman's Fort Walton Beach branch office Friday morning, but police said there was no evidence of foul play.
A couple who was visiting the office about 8 a.m. for an appointment found Lori Klausutis, 28, of Niceville lying near a desk on the floor inside the office, located at 348 Miracle Strip Parkway.
Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Steve Hogue said Friday that a preliminary investigation into her death
hasn't turned up any evidence of foul play or trauma to her body, nor are there any outward indications of suicide.
An autopsy was done Friday to determine the cause of Klausutis' death. The results were not available late Friday night.
Police said that there was no sign of a break-in or a struggle inside the office and nothing was believed to have been stolen from Klausutis or the office. Klausutis worked as a constituent services coordinator for Scarborough, a spokeswoman in his Washington office said Friday.
It isn't known how long Klausutis was dead before being found, or how long she had been at the office.
A prepared statement from Scarborough's Washington office indicated that she may have died as early as Thursday afternoon.
"My staff and family are greatly saddened by the loss of Lori Klausutis," Scarborough said in a separate statement issued several hours after her body was found.
"I know Lori will be missed by the thousands of citizens who regularly contact my office to seek assistance with a variety of problems. May God grant Lori's family the grace, comfort and hope that will get them through this difficult time."
Klausutis' husband and family could not be reached Friday.
A sign posted on the door late Friday read, "Congressman Scarborough's office is temporarily closed" and directed visitors to his Pensacola office.
Klausutis had worked for Scarborough, R-Pensacola, since May 1999, and was based at the retiring congressman's Fort Walton Beach office, said Miguel Serrano, Scarborough's press secretary.
Her duties included handling appointments and walk-in visits from people who wanted to contact Scarborough, Serrano said.
Scarborough flew from Washington, D.C. to Pensacola on Friday afternoon, but Serrano said that flight was planned before Klausutis' death. He said that the congressman typically flies home on weekends to spend time with his two sons.
Scarborough could not be reached for further comment.
Serrano said that Klausutis had suffered from health problems in the past. But he couldn't be more specific as to what those problems were.
The medical problems could explain her sudden death, police said. "That's part of our investigation, checking into her medical history," Hogue said.
Klausutis' former neighbor, Barbara Cromer, said Klausutis and her husband lived near her before they moved to Niceville several months ago. She said she wasn't aware of Klausutis having any serious health problems.
"She was a runner," Cromer said. "Every morning, I would see her run while I walked. We'd wave to each other as we passed.
"I loved Lori so much. She was wonderful. She was a kind, generous person, so sweet."
Paul Lux, director of public relations for Emerald Coast Young Republicans, also spoke well of Klausutis, who resigned her position as president of the group last month to devote more time to her education. Lux said she was an energetic leader and "a joy to work with."
"She was always very upbeat and positive about everything," Lux said. "Even when things got argumentative, she always stayed on the upside of the argument and would never resort to getting dirty or cruel."
Klausutis stayed with the group as treasurer.
Lux said he believed that Klausutis was in good health and "if she wasn't working or in school, she always seemed to be out running."
"I assumed she was in good health, and if she had any kind of debilitating injuries or illnesses, she didn't share them with us," he continued.
The front door of Scarborough's office was unlocked when Klausutis' body was found. Serrano said the office opened at 8 a.m. on weekdays.
Klausutis and one other employee worked at the Fort Walton Beach office.
Serrano said that Scarborough routinely had teleconferences with staffers at each of his Florida offices.
"He knew all of his employees and would keep in touch," he said.
Scarborough is stepping down from his House of Representatives seat in September.
Primaries this Tuesday will determine which Republican and Democratic candidates will square off in October for Scarborough's Florida District 1 seat.
Once Scarborough's resignation takes effect in September, his branch offices in Florida will close, Serrano said.
Staff Writer Amber Bollman contributed to this report. Staff Writer Jeff Ayres can be reached at 863-111, Ext. 444, or email@example.com