It was an apparent act of desperation, one that hardly makes sense to a giving community that had recently provided Timothy Quaschnick’s family with a furnished home rent-free for one year.
But in the time it took to review surveillance footage, a father and part-time security guard became a suspect in the theft of $15,000 from his employer, Lilac Lanes.
The 28-year-old’s arrest segued into a surreal chain reaction that implicated two more casino employees. More than $235,000 has been stolen from the casino since 2003 in separate incidents.
It catapulted Quaschnick’s family into the limelight again and shocked many who had donated to help his son, Gabriel.
The 3-year-old is battling stage IV anaplastic Wilms’ tumor, a severe life-threatening cancer that started in his kidneys and spread to his lungs.
“I just find the whole thing very sad,” said Deborah Johnson, owner of Pleasant Blends Coffee Shop, in North Spokane.
The business owner said she has no regrets about hosting a fund-raiser last year that raised $2,000 for the Quaschnicks.
“I know the family has been through an awful lot and that little boy is as sweet as can be. I hope they can get this straightened out,” Johnson said.
Although no one is making any apologies for potentially criminal behavior, psychologists and others say the unrelenting hardship of caring for a sick loved one can break families both financially and emotionally.
“I think most parents in this situation feel like they’re going off the deep end all the time. We don’t realize how it eats away at people over time,” said Audrey Burr, a clinical social worker with 25 years experience counseling adults and children battling health conditions.
Last December, Gabriel and his parents made headlines when real estate agents, police, business people and the Wishing Star Foundation provided the adorable youngster with a playroom that included a home.
For the Quaschnicks, who’d been staying with relatives, the Spokane Valley home was ideal because it included new carpet which is helpful for a child with an immune system weakened by cancer, chemotherapy and surgeries.
Timothy’s wife, Jennifer Quaschnick, 26, e-mailed a statement expressing gratitude for the donations, which she said helped Gabriel’s health and well-being, potentially stabilizing his remission.
“What Wishing Star did for our family was a godsend. That was and continues to be very much appreciated. Nothing will change that.
“Tim was not thinking about Wishing Star or all of the wonderful people who donated their time and resources when he committed this crime,” Quaschnick said.
She offers few excuses for her husband’s alleged crime but said, “I can only tell you that Tim’s motives were out of pure desperation caused by the mountain of debt that was incurred while our son was battling cancer.”
Spokane Valley Police Chief Cal Walker, a Wishing Star board member who helped facilitate the project, hopes the accusations against the father won’t hurt charitable donations.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed at Tim’s alleged actions because of the damage that it will do in some people’s hearts and minds,” Walker said.
Wishing Star grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses based on verifiable letters from their physicians.
When interviewed by Walker, Gabriel, who’d lost his hair during chemotherapy, had a simple wish: He wanted hair and a place to play.
Employees of Tomlinson Black Valley put their hearts into the project, securing a home, furnishings, food and even Christmas trees and presents in a few short days. Wishing Star provided a SpongeBob-theme bedroom and playroom.
Cash donations to cover utilities were placed into an account managed by a trust specialist.
When the family walked into the home, Gabriel pulled dozens of people into his joy when he bounded up the stairs and invited a roomful of strangers to play.
“You can’t go back and erase that by the actions of the father,” Walker said.
Burr said people shouldn’t become jaded about giving to charities.
“When families are under this kind of stress, we’ve never seen one that wasn’t extremely grateful.”
Instances of families turning to crime are rare, but, Burr said, the stress of dealing with a sick child is so unrelenting that it routinely destroys marriages and causes bankruptcies.
The heartache of having a sick loved one is all too familiar to Al Dethloff, who went through nearly a decade of watching his wife of 35 years battle ovarian cancer.
Trying to live a normal life is impossible because “you’re going to the clinic every two, three and four weeks,” he said. And, even with good insurance benefits, he said making copayments and dealing with delayed reimbursement checks can take a tremendous toll.
“At one point I had about $12,000 out and I called them up, begging them to pay me,” Dethloff said.
During times of crisis, he’d go outside, sit on his car, light a smoke and think, “Oh God, what comes next and where do we go from here?”
Burr said even families with health insurance are often overwhelmed by deductibles and co-pays. The costs of eating meals out, loss of income from missed work and surrendering second jobs to care for the sick loved one compound.
Community support and fund-raisers provide relief, but often wane and can’t solve long-term debt issues, she said.
Newlyweds and first-time parents with a sick child often have a particularly tough time because they frequently lack marital and parenting skills. Problems are magnified when adults don’t have a foundation for coping with stress.
In an interview with KXLY television, Quaschnick said her husband may have a gambling problem.
Burr said gambling, like drinking, is an attractive escape because it offers “a quick relief to the negative experiences in your life.”
Stressors on a job and the temptation of large amounts of casino cash could move a desperate parent to a criminal act.
“When an illness hits you or your family it makes people feel powerless. When we feel powerless most of us will do whatever we can to regain control of our lives,” Burr explained.
Timothy Quaschnick is out of jail pending trial. His wife writes that she hopes to stay out of the limelight and spend every moment possible with her family, because of Gabriel’s fragile health.
She describes her husband as grieved, sorrowful and humbled and said “he wasn’t thinking about anything other than a quick fix to this constant, unrelenting financial thorn in his flesh.”
The possible consequences of the alleged crime are frightening, she said.
“Regardless of theses consequences, Tim will willingly accept and carry out any sentence that is laid before him as it is only what he deserves for committing this crime.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.