Junior Seau told his estranged girlfriend Mary Nolan in January 2011 that his 60 mph drive off a Carlsbad cliff three months earlier was a suicide attempt, according to an 8,800-word article Sunday in U-T San Diego.
Headlined “Bitter endgame,” the investigative piece by Jill Lieber Steeg described a “perfect storm” of factors that ended with the NFL great’s May 2 suicide at his Oceanside home.
In the days and weeks after driving his Cadillac Escalade off the cliff at Carlsbad Boulevard and Solamar Drive, Seau told his former teammates and other friends that he had fallen asleep, the U-T reported in a story that could gain a Pulitzer nomination.
“A month after the domestic violence episode [with Nolan] and the cliff incident, they started talking and quietly rekindled their relationship,” the report said. “In mid-January 2011, a day after his birthday, Seau and Nolan saw each other for the first time since she walked out. He asked her to move back to Oceanside, but she said no, not unless he corrected the issues in his life—his drinking, gambling and infidelity.”
In Sunday’s story, Lieber Steeg quoted a Seau friend, Jamie Paulin, as saying: “Junior trusted [Nolan] with a lot of things he didn’t trust anybody else with.”
Lieber Steeg then wrote, without specific attribution: “One of those things was the fact that his Carlsbad plunge was a suicide attempt.”
Sunday’s report, which followed part one of a two-part series a week earlier, also noted the story told by Murray “Moose” Lea, who said he was a witness to the cliff plunge and told local media that he had heard the engine rev as the Cadillac drove toward the Pacific.
Lea later sued Seau—and then his estate—for personal injuries connected to the cliff plunge. But a San Diego Superior Court jury in early September rejected Lea’s claims for as much as $256,000 for lack of proof.
Among other revelations in the story:
- Seau was heavily in debt to Las Vegas casinos after gambling losses. Lieber Steeg said his average bet was $38,800.
- Seau’s ex-wife, Gina—the mother of three of his four children—made a failed effort to bring him out of depression by showing him family life.
- Seau became a heavy drinker and “there were lots of fights,” the U-T quoted Hall of Famer Warren Moon as saying. “He got very violent when he drank.”
- Seau’s restaurant in Mission Valley was struggling, and he couldn’t afford the $200,000 improvements needed to compete with newcomer The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery.
- Seau also had lost money in a failed Ruby Tuesday franchise deal, which “resulted in financial woes and eventually became a huge drain on his savings,” the U-T reported.
- Finally, the U-T reported that Seau had sent text messages to his family and left other hints he was about to kill himself.
The day before he shot himself in the chest, Seau “sent a group text to Gina, Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter with the words ‘I LOVE YOU.’ … Gina said she received another text from him during this time: ‘ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES I EVER MADE WAS NOT FIGHTING FOR YOU.’”
Daughter Sydney was quoted as saying: “He’s horrible at technology. I thought he was drunk or just getting back to me from an earlier text. I didn’t respond.”