Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death

Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death

by Mark Fuhrman


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060853372
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/28/2005
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.93(d)

About the Author

Retired LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman is the New York Times bestselling author of Murder in Brentwood, Murder in Greenwich, Murder in Spokane, and Death and Justice. He lives in Idaho.

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Silent Witness

Chapter One

Fourteen Days to Die

Friday, March 18, 2005

"I felt like Terri was finally going to get what she wants, and be at peace and be with the Lord."

—Michael Schiavo

"I'm begging you, don't let my daughter die."

—Mary Schindler

At 1:45 P.M. Terri Schiavo's gastric feeding tube is removed, following a court order. Schiavo, a forty-one-year-old female, collapsed in her home on February 25, 1990, and suffered severe brain damage because of lack of oxygen to the brain. The precise cause of her collapse remains unknown, although there is speculation that it was the result of a potassium imbalance caused by an eating disorder.

Terri is being cared for at Hospice House Woodside in Pinellas Park, Florida. It is expected that she will die within seven to fourteen days. Courts have ruled that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state," meaning that damage to her cerebral cortex has rendered her incapable of emotion, memory, or thought. This diagnosis is contested by her parents and siblings, the Schindlers.

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, has argued that Terri would not have wanted to be kept alive in her current condition. Although Terri had left no written instructions on whether or not she wished her life to be terminated in such a condition, a court has accepted testimony from her husband and in-laws that she told them she would not want to be kept alive if incapacitated.

The legal struggle between Schiavo and the Schindlers has lasted more than twelve years, with courts consistently ruling inthe husband's favor. This is the third time the feeding tube has been removed.

Michael Schiavo has two children with his fiancée, Jodi Centonze. If he divorces Terri, he loses custody of her. The guardianship and her estate would be inherited by her immediate family, who have said they would keep her alive. Michael has been in a relationship with Centonze since 1995. Since 1993, the Schindlers have asked Michael to divorce Terri, give up custody, and let them take responsibility for her care. He has always refused.

"Michael and Jodi, you have your own children. Please, please give my child back to me."

—Mary Schindler

"The courts have repeatedly said, this case is not about Mrs. Schindler, Mr. Schiavo or any other third party. It's about Mrs. Schiavo and her own wishes not to be kept alive artificially."

—George Felos, Attorney for Michael Schiavo

The removal of Terri's feeding tube creates a political firestorm. A congressional committee issues subpoenas commanding Terri and Michael Schiavo, along with physicians and other hospice personnel, to appear before them. The committee also moves to intervene in the guardianship case between Schiavo and the Schindlers, and asks circuit-court judge George Greer to stay his order requiring the removal of the feeding tube. Greer denies both motions. The committee's appeals go as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, and are all denied. The Schindlers file a petition for habeas corpus, the same procedure used for prisoners awaiting execution, in the federal district court. Their petition is dismissed.

"Certainly an incapacitated person deserves at least the same protection afforded criminals sentenced to death."

—Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Shortly after her feeding tube is removed, Terri Schiavo receives the Catholic ceremony of last rites. Michael Schiavo stays in a room down the hall. He remains at his wife's side throughout the day, except when her immediate family comes to see Terri. Visiting schedules at the hospice are arranged so that Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers do not see one another. The family spends their time in a thrift shop converted into a temporary headquarters across the street from the hospice. Protesters, most of them supporting the Schindlers, begin gathering outside the hospice.

Saturday, March 19

Police stand guard around the hospice to ensure that no one attempts to give Terri food or water. Barricades are set up on the street. The Schindlers have to pass three separate checkpoints, where they are searched and their IDs are verified, before they are allowed into Terri's room. They can visit only when Michael allows them to, and are not given fixed visiting hours. When they are not allowed to visit, the police will not tell them when to come back and try again. Several days later, the police decided to come over to the thrift shop to let them know when they could visit. Once inside the room, they are forbidden to take photographs or videos of Terri.

"It was horrible. We were treated like common criminals."

—Robert Schindler, Terri's Father

"It was like we shouldn't be there. We were doing something wrong."

—Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri's Sister

Delaying its Easter recess, the U.S. Senate convenes to give formal permission to the House of Representatives to return to session and draft legislation designed to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted.

"A woman's life is at stake, and it is absolutely imperative that we take action today."

—Senator Kent Conrad (R-North Dakota)

Sunday, March 20

Although Terri has spent two days without nourishment or hydration, her family notices little change in her appearance. Her father takes her pulse and checks her skin for dehydration. He examines her pupils with a key-chain flashlight—until police see the flashlight and tell him he can no longer bring it into the room.

Only a few senators are present in the unprecedented session, held on a rainy afternoon in the middle of the Easter recess. The House debate will follow, as members hastily return from their home districts.

"Right now, murder is being committed against a defenseless American citizen."

—Representative Tom Delay (R-Texas)

"This is heart-wrenching for all Americans. But the issue before this Congress is not an emotional one. It is simply one that respects the rule of law."

—Representative Robert Wexler (D-Florida)

Monday, March 21

Waiting for Congress to vote on the bill that might save Terri's life, her family spends all night in the thrift store. After three hours of heated partisan debate, the U.S. House passes, by a 203-58 margin, U.S. Senate Compromise Bill 686 "for the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo." The bill would transfer the case to a U.S. District Court for review.

President Bush flies back from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to sign the bill into law in Washington, D.C.

"It is always wise to err on the side of life."

—President George W. Bush

Judge James D. Whittemore, a federal judge randomly selected by a computer program to preside over the hearing mandated by the newly signed federal law, hears two hours of arguments yet refuses to rule immediately on whether the state courts had violated Terri's right to due process and her religious beliefs. The Schindlers argue that Terri was a practicing Roman Catholic and the removal of her feeding tube goes against church teaching.

"We are now in a position where a court has ordered her to disobey her church and even jeopardize her eternal soul," says David Gibbs, lawyer for the Schindler family.

George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney, argues that reinserting the feeding tube would "countenance a severe invasion upon the body of Terri Schiavo."

Silent Witness. Copyright © by Mark Fuhrman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Started reading this book reluctantly. And for a good reason since my instincts were true. Fuhrman writes for shock value. Everything is always one-sided. He says and writes what he thinks people want to hear or read. So anxious to get this book out instead of being a responsible writer of truth, he should've waited for the results of the autopsy and then write about the controversy and how it caused such dissention amongst family, the public and most of all government interference in our lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The facts in the book on Terri were already reported on the news channels. Mark Fuhrman could have left out the chapters on Cause of Death and Possible Scenaries and dug up more on what wasn't reported on the news channels. Very disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book because I had followed the Teri Schiavo case on the news and in the media. I was very intersted in it and wanted to see what the supposedly 'untold story' was. As far as the untold story goes, there were a few things that I didn't know about Terri and her life that were presented in this book. It was relatively insignificant things....for example, her education, her brother's job....etc. However, this book was disspointing because what I wanted to know was what were the results of the autopsy? Where their significant facts to the case that the media was unable to share with the public? None of these questions were even attempted. Finally, it goes in depth with a lot of medical terms and explanations. For example, it goes on for two or three excrutiating pages about what an EKG is and how it works. It was very detailed. I did not pick up this book to get a medical perspective of things....I wanted interesting facts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this book for some time now and when I bought it on the 28th, I couldn't put it down, and ended up reading the entire book that night. Once again Mark Furhman has stepped up to the plate to ask the very important questions, that in this case, should have been asked 15 years ago. I have read most of the court transcripts and just about anything that I can get my hands on concerning this case and Michael Schiavo's story of what happened the morning that Terri collapsed, and the day leading up to it, changes everytime that he tells it. Why did Judge Greer not see this? There are many players in this case who's actions need to be investigated, to include Judge Greer, George Felos, the Sheriff's Department, Bernie McCabe, who Governor Jeb Bush has asked to look into the amount of time that it took MS to call 911 after his wife collapsed, and the owners of the hospice where Terri past away. Over the past several years, Bernie McCabe has put a stop to any and every investigation attempt into this case. He has already stated that he will look into this for the Governor, but as of now he sees nothing criminal. I just hope and pray that this book will open some eyes and a REAL investigation will be initiated, and -IF- Michael Schiavo is guilty of any wrong doing, I hope that he is punished for it. I cannot imagine the HORROR that the Schindler family went through watching Terri die such a slow and agonizing death, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, except for Michael's sudden ALLEGED memory, after 7 YEARS, of Terri saying that she would not want to be kept alive by artificial means (providing food and water to a person does not fall into this category). Michael Schiavo will go on to live happily ever after with his live-in companion of 10 years and their 2 children together, while the Schindler's are left to grieve with so many unanswered questions. I did not even know Terri and I continue to grieve for her and her family, and there are many other people out there that feel the same way, but have been silenced by the media and all of their untruths about this case. Again, I THANK Mark Furhman so much for bringing these very important questions out in the open and Sean Hannity for asking him to do this.
juglicerr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The New Republic once described books like this as "snap" books: hastily produced and devoid of meaningful content. This might have been worth a magazine article, but it's padded with the extraneous. Not only is it repetitious, but do we really need a detailed explanation of ways in which Terri Schiavo could NOT have been strangled? All that I can say in its favor is that it have a substantial section of Schindler family pictures, some interesting appendixes, and it is readable. It's rather frustrating that none of the books that I have read on this case so far have indexes. Makes it difficult to compare the versions. Fuhrman states: "When I first decided to write this book, I decided that the one contribution was objectivity ... I have a great deal of respect for the Schindler family, and I am truly sorry for what happened to their daughter. I may not like Michael Schiavo much, but that doesn't mean he killed his wife." Oh well, that last bit is really reassuring. Fuhrman assumes that if the Schindlers said it, it must be right. At first, both Michael Schiavo and Bobby Schindler Jr. agreed that Michael called Bobby. Then Bob Schindler decided that he was the one who called Bobby. His son (Bobby) changed his testimony, which proves that Michael was a liar. Bob Schindler also claims that Michael hadn't called 911 whereas Michael claims he did before calling the Schindlers. The conversation, as recorded in the Schindlers's book (A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo -- A Lesson for Us All) is: "'Dad, it's Michael,' the voice on the other end of the line said. 'There's trouble, Terri's passed out. She's unconscious. I can't wake her up.' 'Call 911,' Bob shouted and slammed down the phone." Nothing in this conversation indicates that Michael hadn't already called 911, but the Schindlers and Fuhrman claims it's further proof of lying. Fuhrman says that he is chiefly concerned with the issue of how Terri Schiavo came to collapse in the first place. He argues that the discrepancies in the story are highly suspicious and the Florida police bungled the investigation. The first problem with this accusation is that Fuhrman is looking at about 15 years of statements made in the course of a case that was first highly publicized in Florida and later nationally. The original investigators were looking at what they were told in a couple days; they had no way of knowing that people would change their testimony, or simply be confused, 10 years later. Given the contradictions, some of it has to have been invented, but Fuhrman allows himself to pick and choose to build a case. Call me a dumb layperson, but I find his arguments unconvincing. According to Fuhrman, it is suspicious that Michael Schiavo gives various estimates of when he got home from the restaurant. This might be a red flag worth pursuing, but in the end it's too long before Terri Schiavo's collapse to be obviously important. Maybe it just shows that Michael had a terrible sense of time. Maybe he did have an argument with his wife - his statement to the police implies at least some little disagreement, but the one cited by her friends wasn't around the time of her collapse. Again, worth checking, but not a smoking gun. And why is it suspicious that Michael hearing a thud, would think it might be his wife? After all, her half of the bed was empty, she was obviously up. Maybe it didn't sound like a cat jumping down from something. At the end, he suggests that Governor Jeb Bush convene a grand jury. In his haste to publish, Fuhrman not only missed the autopsy, he missed the report from Florida State Attorney, Bernie McCabe, on the subject of further investigation of abuse. It is published in Michael Schiavo's book and is a complete refutation of Fuhrman. The study concluded that whatever time Schiavo thought he got up, he consistently claimed that he attended to his wife immediately. It points out that the Schindlers had an even worse sense of time: they originally said that
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They received national coverahge. What they showed proved that her parensts' claims that she could see were wishful thinking. There were large holes in her brain, and she wad blind and deaf. No higher brain function existed. More to the point, feeding tubrs, invludimg nasostric tubes ate bery psinful. I researched when my father began to have trouble swallowing. I had his medical power of attorney. He had a living will, snf did not eant a feeding tubr.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting book. It is seen through the eyes of an investigator. While Mr Shiavos family thinks this book calls her husband a murderer, it really doesn't. It provides the facts that do not make Mr Shiavo look very good. You have to draw your own conclusions.This story will haunt me for a long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fuhrman does a decent job of presenting a case for possible wrong doing, but draws no personally-held conclusions as to what actually caused Terri Schiavo's initial injuries. He presents a number of scenarios based on collected evidence and interviews. All seem at least somewhat plausible. Since the recent release of the medical examiner's report all but ruled out the theory of bulimia causing Terri's original injuries, Fuhrman's scrutinizing of the events of that morning and the implied potential for ciminality seem appropriate enough. This book does not answer the question of why Terri Schiavo became severely brain injured, but it raises some interesting theories and is worth the read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To paraphrase this book's author, 'This case isn't about the right to die peacefully, or about euthanasia.' Retired detective Fuhrman takes the position that this case is about a man wanting to free himself from a marriage, and doing so at any cost as long as someone else is making payment. I have two criticisms of Mr. Fuhrman's work. First, it should not have been written before the autopsy results for Terri Schiavo became available. They would, I believe, have altered some of his assumptions and therefore some of his conclusions. Second, he repeats material not once but several times not for emphasis, but (in my opinion) to extend the word count sufficiently to make it book length, and publishable as such. With those things said, though, I found myself thinking about the Schiavo tragedy from different angles than before I read Mr. Fuhrman's book. Like a good detective, he accepts nothing at face value and his understanding of human nature, at its best as well as at its worst, illuminates much that never made sense to me before. Worth reading, although the repetition makes even this sad yet riveting story bog down at times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i liked it because i could put myself in terry's parent's shoes, if that should ever happen to one of my chilren. i would want them here with me, even if they couldn't take care of their selves. a very good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fuhrman in his usual self centered I'm great attitude wrote another dud. He thinks he knows so much about her medical condition and the boring details in his book seem like he was writing for a Hollywood soap opera. He is the worst, most boring writer. I thought I was going to learn something because I was there in the crowd protesting for her life. All I saw out of Fuhrman was his big head and flirting with lots of women to feed his huge ego as big as the state of Florida. He's a joke and I cannot believe anything he says because he is a cosumate liar and the OJ case proved it. A man in love with his ego, himself and any woman who will give him the time of day. The book has nothing special in it and it was written very quickly after her death and I get the impression that he is a man who will take advantage of any situation if it will get his face in front of a camera. He's a fake and anyone involved with this guy better watch their back.