“We’re coping with it. It’s like rekindling something we’d like to forget,” Katie’s father, Walter May, tells PEOPLE. “We miss our daughter tremendously … the pain never goes away.”
The 34-year-old model passed away in February just days after suffering a stroke, her family told PEOPLE at the time. Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter says the star died as a result of an injury sustained during a “neck manipulation by a chiropractor,” information that Walter says the family had suspected.
“We knew in advance, but we didn’t know officially,” Walter says. “The result of the coroner’s report and the hospital report would coincide, and we expected that. We did. We just had to know officially.”
Katie’s brother, Stephen May, echoed Walter’s comments about the cause of death, telling PEOPLE, “My family was not surprised at the news. The doctors at Cedars-Siani were clear with us about the suspected cause of Katie’s stroke, as were her friends.”
The star tweeted about a neck injury less than a week before her death. And Winter previously told PEOPLE that a chiropractor, who he identified as Eric Swartz, shifted her neck, which damaged an artery and cut off blood flow to Katie’s brain, which resulted in the stroke.
Stephen describes his sister’s death as an “unnecessary loss.”
“Katie was happy and healthy, on the verge of the fame and success she’d worked so hard to achieve, and then she was gone,” he tells PEOPLE.
Now, Walter says the family is discussing taking possible legal action against the doctor, adding that any monetary compensation would go to Katie’s 7-year-old daughter Mia.
“If we do file a lawsuit it will be for her benefit,” Walter tells PEOPLE. “If we get any money it would go directly to our grandchild.”
Swartz did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE, but Winter says Swartz has been reported to The California Board of the Chiropractic Examiners.
Walter says the family has not seen granddaughter Mia in months since she moved to the Czech Republic with her father following Katie’s death.
“She’ll be 8 on Halloween … we don’t have [Katie] but we have our granddaughter. Hopefully we’ll see more of her,” he tells PEOPLE. “Right now we have no control over where she is or what she’s doing.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for her Mia’s education.
- REPORTING by JODI GUGLIELMI