Skip to content
She contracted HIV as a girl, from a man who repeatedly raped her. She developed full-blown AIDS at the age of 12. Her best friend, raped by the same man, shot herself in the head and died in her arms.
It was a story Cassey Weierbach, who has traveled the country as an AIDS activist, had told about herself many times before -- in churches, to youth groups, at medical conferences and on TV. This time, in April of last year, the 26-year-old Allentown resident was seated in a wheelchair before 150 students in a Lehigh University auditorium.
Cassey, a 1998 graduate of Freedom High School in Bethlehem Township, explained to the audience that a viral brain infection called progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy, or PML, had crippled her. This, she said matter-of-factly, was the final stage of the disease.
"I'm on a timeline," she said. "I will not live to see my 27th birthday."
Cassey's story, however, was far from over. A church pastor would open a new chapter with a shocking accusation: that Cassey didn't really have AIDS.
"Our time would have been better spent helping [other] people," the Rev. Lois Randolph, then of Lower Saucon United Church of Christ in Hellertown, told The Morning Call two days after Cassey's Lehigh University speech. "She duped my church."
For years, Pastor Lois, as she is known, and other preachers, teachers and doctors from throughout the Lehigh Valley have come to Cassey's aid. Churchgoers and volunteers have held her hand when she was laid up in a hospital bed. They've cooked her meals and done her laundry. They've passed the plate for her on Sunday and paid her rent when it was overdue.
Wherever she has needed to go, they've taken her, to the grocery store, to the pharmacy, to doctor appointments. Countless doctor appointments. The medical work -- physicals,blood work and MRIs under Pennsylvania's Medicaid program -- is unending.
Now, Pastor Lois was accusing Cassey of a particularly cruel form of deception. And that assertion would soon force some of those who helped Cassey to make uncomfortable calculations about the limits of their own good will.
AIDS is the scourge of an era. More than a half-million Americans have died of the disease since its discovery in the early 1980s.
That a healthy individual might actually pretend to have such a terrible affliction is an idea that would never occur to most people. Nonetheless, at least two dozen fake AIDS cases have been reported in psychiatric journals and books.
The cases are attributed to factitious disorder, a condition in which people feign illness because they crave unnecessary medical attention. Extreme cases are said to be Munchausen syndrome. Unlike hypochondriacs, who believe they are sick, Munchausen patients know they are not.
Method actors of the most extreme variety, they are capable of throwing themselves completely, mercilessly into the role of victim. They've burned themselves with cigarettes to simulate skin lesions. They've injected themselves with feces to trigger infection. In one case, a woman reportedly went to more than 600 hospitals and underwent 42 operations, which left her abdomen crisscrossed with scars.
Doctors, often the only people who know a person's real condition, are effectively muzzled. Federal regulations, known best by the acronym HIPAA, have codified the sacrosanctity of medical privacy, giving Munchausen patients the perfect cover.
Cassey bristles at any suggestion that she does not have AIDS.
Rather, she says, she is the victim of a vengeful Pastor Lois, who was scandalized by Cassey's romantic involvement with a woman.
"It seems like she is going to make my life living hell," she said, referring to the pastor. "Do you hate me so much because I'm gay that you are willing to destroy my life?"
Pastor Lois, 54, responded to Cassey's recrimination:
"I believe God created us all to be loved and love one another. I can't believe God made a mistake. I recognize that there are some people who are homosexuals, and I accept it."
Cassey had come to Lower Saucon United Church of Christ by chance several years ago after befriending a member of the church. Pastor Lois said she welcomed Cassey into the congregation without reservation.
"This has nothing to do with homosexuality," she said. "I just don't want her to take people in."
Committed to speaking out
Cassey's work as an HIV-AIDS activist has taken her to Florida and Ohio. In 2002 and 2003 she was a featured speaker at meetings of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care of Greater Fort Lauderdale, for which she was paid at least $1,000. In 2002, she was a guest on a Christian TV show on station WTLW-44 in Lima, Ohio.
In Cassey's apartment are reminders of her life's work: an AIDS ribbon pinned to a corkboard; a framed snapshot from one of the Florida trips on an end table; engraved brass-plated plaques hanging on the wall.
One plaque reads: "Department of Health & Human Services, USA; Lifetime Achievement Award; For Years of Continued Excellence in the Field of AIDS Education, 2002; Cassey J. Weierbach."
At Lehigh University in April 2005, Cassey -- who pronounces her name like "Stacy" -- was speaking as part of a coast-to-coast HIV- AIDS educational campaign. The tour was organized by a San Francisco nonprofit group called Hope's Voice and sponsored by OraSure Technologies, the Bethlehem maker of the OraQuick rapid HIV test.
Under the stage lights that day, her complexion looked ghostly. Her face and hands were as pale as the scalp on her buzzed head. Her brown eyes, magnified by wire-rimmed glasses, were crossed. On her feet were un-scuffed white sneakers, propped lifelessly on her wheelchair footrests.
She went into great detail with the Lehigh students: The man from whom she had contracted HIV had also raped his daughter. When Cassey told the girl, whom she called her best friend, that she planned to tell the authorities about the abuse, the girl got a gun and shot herself in the head. She bled to death in Cassey's arms before the ambulance arrived at the scene.
The audience listened in silence. As Cassey rolled herself off- stage, some were wiping away tears.
In recent years, Cassey's story has been reported in various newspapers, including The Morning Call.
"I didn't know whether to be happy because she wasn't suffering anymore or to be sad because I lost my best friend," Cassey said of the girl's suicide in an April 2002 article in The Brown and White, the student newspaper of Lehigh University. Cassey was featured as part of the newspaper's coverage of Sexual Assault Awareness Week. She went on to say she didn't see herself as a victim.
"I've accepted the fact that I'm here to help others, and if I make a difference in just one life, then I've done my job," she said.
She spoke at Northampton Community College around the same time. "A lot of people get angry when they hear my story," she said in the May edition of the NCC student newspaper, The Commuter. "I want them to go out and do HIV-AIDS volunteer work with their anger."
Longtime friends stand by her
Some people who have known Cassey since she was a girl believe in and support her.
Ruth Bethman, who was Cassey's eighth-grade teacher at East Hills Middle School in Bethlehem, is proud of her former student.
"She has tried to educate, and anyone that tries to educate has high marks in a teacher's eyes," she said.
Bethman, of Bethlehem Township, remembers Cassey as a tomboy who craved her attention. The two have remained friends. Cassey has assigned Bethman medical power of attorney, meaning she has entrusted her former teacher to make medical decisions for her should she become unable to do so for herself.
On at least two occasions, Bethman has found herself at Cassey's bedside in a hospital. "If she's playing a trick, she's doing a very good job," she said. "You can't fake that."
Jeff and Judy Hoffert, the parents of Cassey's childhood friend, Larry Hoffert, have had Cassey over to their Bethlehem home for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
In her high school yearbook photo, taken nearly a decade ago, Cassey's appearance is unremarkable -- a black-and-white image of a smiling girl in a pixie haircut. (She blames medication for making her hair patchy; hence the buzz cut today.)
But even then, something was amiss. Cassey was so unhappy at home, she practically moved in with the Hofferts.
She told them about the sexual abuse and the AIDS. At one point, she lost weight and said she had only a few months to live. But she got better, and at Larry's high school graduation party, Judy had Cassey's name written on the cake next to her son's.
For the Hofferts, members of Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church in Bethlehem, helping others is a way of life. Judy has sometimes done Cassey's laundry.
"Jesus said that what you do for the least of my brethren, you do unto me," Judy Hoffert said.
Larry Hoffert has since moved away, but the Hofferts' daughter, Laura, has remained close to Cassey. She calls Cassey, who is four years older, CJ, short for Cassey Jo. She describes her as caring and funny.
The two don't spend as much time together as they used to. Laura, a single mother of a toddler, has a job at a Subway sandwich shop and takes classes at Northampton Community College.
But Laura has heard about Pastor Lois from Cassey's perspective.
"This lady, being a pastor, should come at this with more of a Christian point of view," she said. "God is loving."
In public Cassey projected perseverance in the face of tragedy. But over the course of dozens of one-on-one conversations, she returned to certain themes, wavering between despondency and bitterness.
"I have no idea how I'm going to afford my funeralI could die in this apartment and nobody would know for a week or twoThat terrifies me to no endI'm afraid of suffering at the end, and being all alone."
Cassey lived at the time, with the curtains drawn, in a neatly kept third-floor apartment in a rundown Bethlehem Township complex. To come and go, she had others carry her up and down the 34 steps between her front door and the street. Inside, sometimes she sat in her wheelchair, and sometimes she sat on the couch, sideways, with her legs stretched over the seat cushions. The TV was almost always on, though she kept it muted when talking.
"You wonder, what did I do to deserve this? I wasn't fooling around. I didn't use drugs. I often felt like I was being punished. And I didn't understand whyI tried to believe that people who are always decent and people who are always honest would prevail. Yet, people who are decent and honest get kicked in the teeth."
Orange pill bottles usually sat on the coffee table in front of the couch. Cassey said her condition had advanced beyond the point where the AIDS cocktail, a combination of drugs that can keep the disease at bay, could be helpful. So, a couple of years ago, she began receiving end-of-life care -- to ease the pain. Nothing else could be done. Her prescription was for morphine.
"At night I'm so drugged up I lie down and fall asleep. That's itI wake up in the morning and say, "Why am I here? What's my purpose?' Because I don't do anything."
Her thoughts sometimes turned to matters of spirituality. After her falling-out with Pastor Lois, Cassey began attending First Baptist Church in Bethlehem. For a while, members of the church helped her out. The youth group had a collection and gave her the money. One man rounded up volunteers to take her on errands and to doctor appointments. But then they stopped coming around as her demands mounted.
"The sicker I got, they pulled away, which you would think would be the oppositeIt just bothered me that they could do that and call themselves Christians."
She questioned her own faith.
"I've pretty much given up. I've called churches for help, and they've all turned me awayIf they're supposed to be representing our Lord and Savior, who does care?"
She said her girlfriend broke up with her because of Pastor Lois' accusation.
"The hardest part of this is the loss of someone I truly lovedWhen that stopped, I had nothing to look forward to."
A journal speaks from the past
Liz Bradbury, the Allentown publisher of the Valley Gay Press newspaper, was introduced to Cassey long before Cassey's first AIDS speech.
It was a decade ago that Bradbury, now 48, was told of a teenage girl who was coming to terms with her sexual orientation and who needed somebody to talk to. Cassey then was a student at Freedom High School.
With the help of her detailed journal, Bradbury recalled her brief acquaintance with Cassey from May 23 to Aug. 11, 1996.
They met only a few times, but Cassey would call Bradbury often, sometimes more than once a day. Cassey had a lot to say.
She said that she didn't know the meaning of the word "lesbian," but that she knew she was attracted to the same sex. She said she had had a girlfriend, a Moravian College student, who had, months before, died in a car accident.
Cassey's parents had split up. Upon Cassey's request, Bradbury accompanied her to a contentious custody hearing.
"I remember thinking, this is way too complicated for me to understand," Bradbury said.
On May 30, Cassey told Bradbury that her best friend -- the daughter of the man who, she said, had molested her -- had just shot herself. In this version of the story, however, Cassey was not with the girl when she pulled the trigger. At this point -- in 1996 -- Cassey was not yet telling people, as she later would, that the girl died in her arms.
And then, on July 6, Cassey told her that a new girlfriend, another Moravian student, had also committed suicide.
"It's hard to believe," Bradbury wrote in tiny purple print in her journal that day. "It's so weird. Cassey is not very upset."
Bradbury checked with a friend who worked at Moravian. Nobody there had ever heard of the women Cassey had identified as her deceased girlfriends or could recall hearing about the fatal car accident or a suicide.
Cassey stopped calling Bradbury after Bradbury confronted her.
Although Bradbury said the experience changed her -- she said it made her "more skeptical" -- Cassey faded to an afterthought.
That is, until September 2002, when Bradbury picked up The Morning Call and saw Cassey's face in a photo above an article.
The article was about the talks Cassey had given at two local churches, St. John's Lutheran Church in Williams Township and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Wilson. Quoted was a member of St. John's, who said Cassey had given her teenage audience "some real- life exposure."
Bradbury picked up the phone and alerted the newspaper to her concerns about Cassey's credibility. But the initial reporting did not lead to a story and the issue was set aside.
Pastor compelled to speak out
It was another Morning Call article in April 2005 that prompted Pastor Lois to speak out. The article was about Cassey's speech at Lehigh University.
So the pastor called the newspaper, which in turn brought her accusation to the attention of the event's sponsor, OraSure Technologies, the Bethlehem rapid HIV test maker.
Pastor Lois explained why she was so sure Cassey did not have AIDS: She had asked Cassey in 2004 to prove her diagnosis by taking an HIV test. She had had a gut feeling about the young woman -- a gnawing suspicion rooted in an accumulation of contradictions and holes in Cassey's personal history.
They went to a clinic where Cassey took a blood test, and Cassey signed a release allowing the test result to be shared with her, Pastor Lois said. The pastor said that when she called to get the result two weeks later, she was told it was negative -- indicating Cassey did not, in fact, have AIDS.
By the time the pastor had contacted the newspaper, the Hope's Voice tour had moved on to its next stop at Shepherd University in West Virginia. Cassey and four other speakers, all of whom were HIV- positive, were traveling together in a rented RV.
But her traveling companions were already beginning to have doubts, according to Todd Murray, the organizer of the tour.
Murray had gotten to know Cassey through e-mail after she had contacted Hope's Voice in search of help. But now, in person, she didn't seem to have symptoms of PML, the viral brain infection that impairs its victims' cognitive abilities and coordination. There also was the question of Cassey's unwillingness to provide a required medical emergency plan detailing what to do and whom to contact, he said.
Murray decided to double back to the Lehigh Valley and drop Cassey off.
That night, at an impromptu goodbye party, Cassey would stun them all. Murray and the Hope's Voice RV driver, Garon Arnell, described the scene:
They were at a college bar. Dance music was pulsing. The lights were dim. People, including some of the Hope's Voice speakers, were on the dance floor.
Cassey was at the bar. She downed a couple of shots.
Then she rolled herself onto the dance floor, rose to her feet -- and danced. For the length of the song, she supported her own weight and moved to the rhythm.
Murray said he and the others were "dumbfounded."
"Our jaws dropped," he said. "What just happened here? What's going on?"
The next day, Murray said, he asked Cassey about her seemingly miraculous turn. She told him the effort had been excruciatingly painful, he said.
The downward spiral
The Lehigh University speech marked a turning point in Cassey's life. It sparked a chain of events that would, in a matter of months, upend the world she had constructed for herself.
Cassey blamed Pastor Lois for bringing her travels on the Hope's Voice tour to an early end. So, just days after the pastor had spoken to The Morning Call, Cassey called the newspaper, too. Seething, she said she had been slandered by the pastor, and she suggested an article be written to set the record straight.
With the loss of the $1,200 she had hoped to earn as a Hope's Voice speaker, Cassey said she was unable to pay her rent; it had been years since her last retail job. She would soon be evicted from her Bethlehem Township apartment, and would later face another possible eviction. With her reputation as an AIDS activist in question, the public speaking engagements dried up.
For a while, she got by with the help of a new church, the Lehigh Valley Church of Christ in Bethlehem Township. The evangelical church came upon Cassey through a door-knocking campaign.
Moved by her story, the Rev. Gary Kreuzwieser, pastor of the church, took on Cassey as a special project. He and other members of the church began calling on her. They brought groceries from a food bank. When it came time for her to move her belongings from her Bethlehem Township apartment to a new one in Allentown, they did the heavy lifting, using a borrowed van.
The church also dipped into its benevolence fund to cover Cassey's rent and other bills.
"That adds up," Kreuzwieser said. He estimated the total value of the church's assistance at a couple of thousand dollars. But, like First Baptist Church, the Lehigh Valley Church of Christ also would eventually pull back.
Cassey grew increasingly desperate. She said she hoped a newspaper article would draw attention to her plight.
"I prayAnd this may sound stupid, but I say, God, please send me a check for $10,000, $20,000I would love to go to my mailbox and see a check for $20,000."
A tragic plane crash
As if Cassey's story of sexual abuse and AIDS weren't sad enough, it got even sadder. She told her traveling companions on the Hope's Voice tour that her father died on TWA Flight 800, the Paris-bound flight that went down after takeoff from New York's Kennedy Airport on July 17, 1996.
This was a detail that helped Murray, the director of Hope's Voice, make up his mind about Cassey. "Bad things happen," he said. "But that's a lot of bad things."
Flight 800 mysteriously exploded off Long Island, killing all 230 people on board. The tragedy occurred during the period that Bradbury, the gay rights activist, was in contact with Cassey.
Bradbury made note of Flight 800 in her journal on the day it exploded. But subsequent entries about her conversations with Cassey make no mention of the girl's father being on the plane.
To the contrary, several weeks later, on Aug. 9, 1996, Bradbury described in her tiny purple print Cassey's custody hearing, where she met the girl's mother and father.
"I heard that too," Cassey's father, Howard Weierbach, said last month of his purported death on Flight 800. He lives with his dog in a two-family house with white vinyl siding just off Main Street in Hellertown. "I just kind of laugh it off."
He remembers his estranged daughter as a little girl. "Oh God, she was such a cute, lovable kid."
The former Bethlehem Steel worker with a graying ponytail and goatee disappeared into a closet and returned with a photo album. There she is, a feisty girl, balanced on his hip, with a big grin for the camera. It's a snapshot from a muscle car club meet, where he took her on weekends. "All the club members and their wives, they thought she was so cute."
Howard Weierbach moved out when Cassey was 5. His marriage to Cassey's mother, a nurse, had gone bad. The breakup was bitter, and divorce proceedings dragged on for years.
The contest was all-consuming, recalled Howard Weierbach, now 54 and out of work because of a lingering disability from his steel worker days. From the sidelines, Cassey and her two older siblings, whom Weierbach adopted after marrying Cassey's mother, watched their family break up.
The only way she could get any attention was to lie, he said, and Cassey lied about being sick.
"She has pulled so much it's unreal," he said. "It's nothing but a pack of lies."
Cassey's mother and her siblings declined to comment.
Medical records: She has AIDS
Cassey has a ready defense: If she doesn't really have AIDS, then why do her medical records say she does?
Among the medical documents Cassey produced as evidence of her diagnosis was a March 2004 letter from Dr. Cindy Barter, then a partner at the HealthSpring family practice in Bethlehem Township. In the letter, Barter says Cassey has both AIDS and PML and describes her condition as "terminal and rapidly progressing."
"I did write that letter," Barter said in a telephone interview, "before I had some other information."
She said she couldn't say more for fear of violating Cassey's privacy. But then she continued, choosing her words carefully.
"I would feel uncomfortable with my letter being confirmatory to her diagnosis," she said.
Barter said she felt constrained by HIPAA regulations.
But Munchausen syndrome is a problem other doctors don't want to talk about, according to Dr. Marc Feldman, one of the nation's leading experts on the subject.
While Munchausen is a recognized mental disorder, there is a debate within psychiatry about whether it should be, or if it is "simply bad behavior," Feldman said. "It's hard to think of another diagnosis [doctors] are so uncomfortable with."
Indeed, the mere mention of Cassey's name prompted one of her former doctors to erupt into a torrent of profanity before he abruptly hung up the telephone.
"They hate it," Feldman explained. "Nobody likes to be played for a fool, especially doctors, who are high-status professionals."
After listening to a description of Cassey, Feldman, of the University of Alabama's psychiatry department, said she sounded like a classic Munchausen case. A pattern of telling tall tales about oneself -- pseudologia fantastica is the clinical term -- is a characteristic of Munchausen.
Much of Cassey's story is false or highly suspect.
Although Cassey said the man who raped her also raped other girls and was convicted and sent to jail, there were no reports of such a crime. As for her best friend, who she said shot herself in the head and died in her arms:
"It's obviously not true, because I'm alive," the best friend, who did not want to be identified, said in an interview last week. "That's pathetic."
People in a position to know say the woman whom Cassey identified as her ex-girlfriend was never romantically involved with Cassey.
And the engraved brass-plated plaque on the wall of Cassey's apartment? "Nobody has heard of the lifetime achievement award, really," a Department of Health and Human Services spokesman in Washington, D.C., said. The spokesman said the notation "USA" on Cassey's plaque is not consistent with the department's style.
Morphine runs low
In the months after her Lehigh University speech, Cassey cycled through doctors. She'd see a doctor once or twice, and then they'd refuse to see her again.
She said they dropped her because her case -- the AIDS, the PML - - was too complicated. She called them "idiots." She complained incessantly that Gateway Health Plan, one of Pennsylvania's Medicaid programs, was giving her a hard time.
Sitting in her wheelchair during an interview, she tossed a tennis ball off her apartment wall -- thump -- and caught it on the bounce. Thump. Thump. Thump.
She became obsessed with renewing her prescription as her morphine supply ran low.
"This is the worst week in my lifeI wish I were dead. It's better than being in pain. I'm out of medication!I'm upset with the whole world today because nobody seems to careI don't function very well without my medication."
At one appointment at the Parkway Medical Center in South Allentown, she flew into a rage after the doctor reduced the strength of her morphine prescription. She was back in the waiting room after the exam when she realized the slip in her hand was not what she had expected.
"This is so f----- up!" she screamed, bringing the room, crowded with mothers and children, to a silence.
"You!" she barked at one of the staff. "Where's the doctor?"
When the doctor appeared, Cassey rolled her wheelchair to his feet and craned her neck to look up at him with bulging eyes. She demanded to speak to him immediately. Dr. William Sprague told her he could do no more without a new round of tests; the only medical records he had were those Cassey had faxed to him before the appointment.
In professional psychiatric literature, Munchausen syndrome -- named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th century German famous for telling tall tales -- falls under the heading of factitious disorders. Another factitious disorder is malingering; malingerers seek medical attention as a way of obtaining something other than attention, such as drugs.
But sorting out the two disorders can be tricky, said Dr. Stuart Eisendrath, the director of clinical services at the University of California's Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital in San Francisco. Sometimes Munchausen patients seek drugs not because they're addicts, but simply because the drugs are standard treatment for their apocryphal ailments, he said.
"The drugs are like proof, like a badge," Eisendrath said.
Last fall, a month after her outburst in Sprague's waiting room, Cassey was rushed by ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown. She said she had fainted in her bathroom, and that when she awoke she couldn't move her left arm. It was a stroke, she said.
She spent a week and a half in the hospital. A battery of expensive tests was performed, including brain scans, but the doctors were unable to identify the problem, she said. When a doctor told her he had decided to discharge her, she protested vehemently, to no avail, arguing that she would be unable to get around in a wheelchair without the use of her arm.
By now, Cassey's relationship with Lehigh Valley Church of Christ was souring. She accused a congregant of stealing from her. Before long, she would be unable to find a ride to Sunday service; nobody was willing to take her.
The lab report
But one member of the church was steadfast. Andy Maderic, 72, of Allentown visited Cassey once or twice a week. He brought her groceries. He drove her to doctor appointments.
One brisk day last winter, Maderic brought Cassey to an appointment at a Whitehall Township family practice. He lugged her wheelchair up the front steps and opened the door for her.
Cassey burst through the door and did a wheelie, balancing her wheelchair on its two back wheels. Maderic followed behind and paused to catch his breath.
Maderic retired from Mack Trucks in 1991 after three decades of work as a forklift driver, a crane operator and a welder. When his wife was diagnosed with cancer, she was given a year to live, he recalled. But he prayed, and she lived for another 10, until 1995.
"That's very depressing, when you have nobody at all," he said of Cassey, shaking his head, after her name was called and she had left the waiting room.
Maderic said he was disappointed in his church's abandonment of Cassey. He blamed its behavior on fear.
"I know some of the women are afraid their kids will get AIDS," he said. "One woman tore into me: "What the heck are you bringing her here for?"'
When Cassey returned to the waiting room, she was waving a sheet of paper -- the report from her most recent blood work, which she had supplied to the doctor's office.
It stated: "ReactiveA reactive result indicates that HIV 1 antibodies have been found in this patient's specimen." That meant she had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Asked to confirm the HIV-positive diagnosis, Cassey's doctor ushered her and this reporter into a private room.
The doctor, who requested that her name not be published, then explained that, yes, the report indicated Cassey was HIV-positive; but, no, she did not believe Cassey really had HIV or AIDS.
Cassey's face flushed scarlet. The silence was filled by the humming of fluorescent light bulbs.
The doctor continued. She pointed out what she said were inconsistencies in the numbers printed on the three-page report. "The CD-4 [count] cannot be zero when other elements are normal."
And that's not all, the doctor said: Tests performed during Cassey's recent hospitalization at Sacred Heart indicated Cassey did not have AIDS.
"She had so many tests that came back negative."
Cassey rolled herself out of the room in a huff. "She's not an expert," Cassey grumbled.
The lab report that had been supplied to the Whitehall family practice bore the name of Premier Medical Laboratory in Edison, N.J.
"We've never had this patient," said the lab's office manager who was later shown a copy of the report by this reporter. The letterhead and formatting were all wrong. Her lab doesn't even do HIV testing; it uses a subcontractor for that. "It's not our report, I can assure youIt seems somebody is playing games."
Cassey now has a new doctor who, she says, has restored her morphine prescription to full strength. She's still in her Allentown apartment, though she's been taken to court over missed rent.
Asked about the dead Moravian College girlfriends, she calmly denied ever having made such claims. About dancing in a college bar: "I don't drink. I never went into a bar."
About her father who lives in Hellertown: "He died in a plane accident, that's what I was toldIf he's alive, that would be nice."
About the falsified lab report: "I don't know why they told you what they told youI am a very honest person."
Asked if she's lying about having AIDS, she peers up from her wheelchair and, after a deep breath, answers:
"I have no reason to lie. Nothing good has come from thisIf I could go out and get a job and work 9 to 5, I would love it. Because sitting here all day is horrible. Nothing ever changes. Every day is the sameI would love to be one of those healthy people. I would give anythingIt sucks to be 27 years old and need help from people all the time. I'm only 27."
It's a muggy late-spring afternoon, and Cassey has yet another doctor appointment. So the 72-year-old Maderic drives her there. He sits in the waiting room. He drives her home.
He opens the passenger-side door and guides Cassey out, before her weight finally drops into the wheelchair.