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Mental, physical illness frame life of stabbed boy's mother, records show

LARGO — Celeste Minardi was sick for a long time before police say she tried to kill her 15-year-old son.

She had severe mood swings every day because of bipolar disorder, court records show. She was involuntarily hospitalized at least twice. A rare neuromuscular disease left her so feeble that she had trouble lifting small bags of coins, let alone working.

Minardi, who filed for bankruptcy three months ago, also wrote in court records that she was having trouble getting insurance to pay for her medication.

Her medical and mental health problems — detailed in her divorce proceedings from former Gulfport and St. Pete Beach city attorney Timothy Driscoll — shed more light on the shocking attack.

On Saturday, Minardi, 55, pulled out two knives during a supervised visit in a psychiatrist's office and began slashing at her son Bradley Driscoll, according to Largo police. She ripped open his abdomen, sliced his neck and wounded his forehead. Police say the attack was unprovoked.

The visit at the office of Dr. Ronald Knaus and Associates at 1301 Seminole Blvd. was part of a mediation agreement.

Minardi, a Dunedin resident, was arrested on an attempted murder charge.

Bradley, a St. Petersburg High freshman, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg with life-threatening injuries. The hospital could not release details about his condition Monday.

Minardi and Timothy Driscoll married in 1984 and divorced in 2005. According to court records, Minardi couldn't work because of her various ailments. Also, a back injury incurred on the job in 1986 left her with chronic back pain.

Her attorney wrote that Minardi "is unable to work at this time, and furthermore she is psychologically infirmed. She is under the care of a psychiatrist and a psychologist and takes many different medications in an attempt to manage her conditions."

A psychiatrist testified during divorce proceedings that Minardi had daily mood swings because of her bipolar disorder. Dr. Antoinette Falk also testified that Minardi had myasthenia gravis, a disorder that weakens muscles in the face and can sometimes restrict limb and neck movement.

Minardi couldn't even lift bags of coins when she worked at a bank years ago. Although she once worked as a licensed nurse, she hadn't worked in years. When she was arrested, Minardi weighed just 96 pounds even though she is 5 feet, 6 inches tall.

At the time of the divorce, Minardi was taking mood stabilizers and psychotropic drugs. But after the divorce, court records show that Minardi had trouble getting medical coverage. In 2006, she was turned down by GoldenRule, a United Healthcare company.

The reason: "history of bipolar."

Her financial picture also worsened as creditors moved to get their money back.

Three months ago, Minardi filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, listing assets worth $210,000 and liabilities of more than $241,000. She said her checking account held only $80, and for cash on hand she listed just $20. Her sole source of income: the $3,600 Driscoll paid her every month as alimony.

Driscoll did not respond to a message seeking comment.

As her problems worsened, Minardi began lashing out. She wrote angry notes in the margins of court documents.

In 2006, after being turned down for health coverage, she wrote: "Tim wants me to commit suicide. & 25 percent of Bipolar people commit suicide."

Times researcher Caryn Baird and Times staff writer Rita Farlow contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Mental, physical illness frame life of stabbed boy's mother, records show 03/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2008 1:44pm]
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