“Okay,” she mouthed, squeezing his fingers.
For nearly a month, until a few days ago, D.C. police had barred David Guggenheim, a noted marine biologist, from having any contact with his wife, the apparent victim of a mysterious assault in early April. Detectives have made it clear that they consider him a suspect. “Which is absurd,” said Guggenheim, a senior fellow at the nonprofit Ocean Foundation and a media-savvy lecturer, explorer and TV guest.
“I would never in a million years lay a hand on her or anyone else,” he said.
Svetlana Guggenheim, recovering from a subdural hematoma in MedStar Washington Hospital Center, has told police she has no recollection of how she was injured. Her husband was a daily presence at her bedside in early April. Then, for more than three weeks, as Svetlana Guggenheim slowly improved from semiconsciousness to being dimly aware of her surroundings, she lay alone in an intensive-care unit, isolated from her spouse of 18 years. She has no other relatives in the region.
“They are supposedly keeping me safe from you,” she told him in a note last week. In another note, she wrote that she had been “going crazy” worrying about him.
Authorities have said that Svetlana Guggenheim blamed her husband for her injuries and asked to be protected from him. But she has no recollection of doing that, she contends. Even though the two are reunited, they remain caught in a tortuous, confusing criminal investigation that’s more than just a whodunit.
It’s a howdunit, a whydunit, a whendunit — a what-the-heck-happened?
A brutal discovery
David Guggenheim, 53, is a high-energy, multimedia advocate for marine conservation. You can book him for a speaking engagement; you can download his podcasts; you can peruse his extensive Web site. He was featured on the CBS News program “60 Minutes” in December, scuba diving with correspondent Anderson Cooper in the Caribbean, exploring a renowned coral reef. “The Ocean Doctor,” he has dubbed himself.
He told police he returned from an out-of-town trip last month and found his wife semiconscious on the floor of their Northwest Washington apartment.
Clad only in a blouse, her face swollen and discolored, her tangled hair matted with dried blood, Svetlana Guggenheim, a 46-year-old Russian interpreter, was unable to speak, having suffered a grievous blow to her head.
Her skull and left eye socket were fractured and her upper arms were bruised, possibly from being violently grabbed. This indicated to doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center that she had been assaulted. Six weeks later, although she is out of intensive care, she is still breathing and taking nourishment through tubes in her neck and stomach. Her fractured left eye socket remains swollen, the lid shut. When she feels up to communicating, she scribbles little notes.