JUDGE IN SCHIAVO CASE HAS IGNORED GRAVE ALLEGATIONS OF HUSBAND'S
The judge presiding over the life of Terri Schiavo has ignored
potentially explosive claims detailing what those making them believe is
a pattern of unusual and allegedly perhaps even violent behavior by her
husband, behavior they fear may have factored into the demise of the
Florida woman to begin with.
The allegations are just that: assertions by a number of people who are
on the opposite side of the debate over the fate of Michael Schiavo's
wife -- who has languished in a severely disabled but hardly vegetative
state since February 25, 1990, when she was found in a collapsed state
between a hall and bathroom during the early morning hours. As
allegations, they should be held with a degree of circumspection that
provides a presumption of innocence until more evidence is brought to the
Moreover, it must be remembered at each turn that there is a bitter
dispute at the heart of the issue. In 2004 police closed an investigation
into marks found on Terri's arms after finding no evidence the tiny
wounds were the result of a crime. A nursing assistant noticed the marks
and reported them to a nurse, but it was found that they could have been
the result of a device used to lift the woman from her bed.
The state's Department of Children and Families had asked for a 60-day
delay in the March 18 date for removal of Terri's feeding and hydration
tubes, saying it wanted time to investigate allegations of "abuse" and
"neglect" against Michael in the care of Terri since her collapse.
The judge, George W. Greer of the Sixth Circuit in Pinellas County, has
denied that request for a delay, as he has denied virtually all
substantive motions by her parents, the Schindlers -- who are desperately
fighting to keep their daughter alive and who have now called for the
judge's impeachment on the grounds of partiality.
Last week the Schindlers alluded again to the pattern of behavior on the
part of their son-in-law, commenting that after Michael Schiavo has
denied Terri therapy for so many years and “denied our family any
opportunity to help her, we can only come to the conclusion that he is
not comfortable with the prospects of her regaining her abilities to
speak and communicate to us the reasons for her collapse."
Terri's father Robert told Spirit Daily he is "more than 90 percent sure"
that violence on the part of the husband factored into his daughter's
Both Schiavo and his attorney have stridently denied such allegations.
It is time, however, to explore these assertions in more depth, and for
this we go to a compilation of documents, including sworn affidavits and
court testimony, provided by the Schindlers, documents that are part of
the court record.
There is first of all the husband's alleged temperament. According to
some of those who know him, Michael Richard Schiavo, at 6'6" and about
250 pounds, cast an intimidating presence made all the more so by what
the Schindlers claim were severe mood swings.
"Most people, particularly Terri, were easily intimidated because of
Michael's size," says a background sheet distributed by her parents. "It
has been documented that Michael had rages of anger and would use his
physical stature to bully people, and as indicated in their attached
personal experiences and affidavits, it was mostly women that were the
subject of Michael's episodes of anger."
Terri's brother, Bobby, a school teacher, says that "my family would
often wonder, before Michael and Terri would come for a visit, which
Michael was going to show up."
When the family was still living in Philadelphia, Bobby says the had an
argument with Schiavo and that "Michael got so upset that he suddenly
snapped, and grabbed me by the throat and threw me down on the couch, had
one hand around my neck and the other was in the air ready to punch me in
Bobby asserts that his sister Terri "asked me to please not tell our
parents because it would upset them too much."
Father Robert says that Terri would occasionally show up at the house
with bruises and when asked about them would explain them away as from
In the weeks leading up to the incident in which Terri mysteriously
collapsed (some say from an imbalance in her body chemistry), the family
asserts that their daughter was speaking of divorcing her husband of six
In testimony on January 26, 2000 -- testimony largely ignored by the
mainstream media -- a friend named Jackie Rhodes stated under oath that
the last time she spoke to Terri, February 24, 1990 -- the day before her
"collapse" -- Terri was "very, very upset" and "sounded like she had been
crying. I asked her if she was okay. She said she had a fight with
Schiavo denies he had any fight leading up to the incident.
Several weeks before her collapse, Terri had a "breakdown" at a
Bennigan's Restaurant, according to brother Bobby. "Just outside the
restroom in the hallway, Terri turned to me and started to cry," he says.
"I asked her what was wrong and she said that she wanted to divorce
Michael. I remember asking if she spoke to mom and dad about this, and
Terri was adamant about not telling my father how unhappy she was. She
had a tough time settling down and kept repeating to me, 'Bobby, I wish I
had the guts to divorce him because I would in a second.'"
In a situation as emotional as the current confrontation between the
Schindlers and Schiavo over removal of Terri's feeding tube, it must be
remembered that every detail must be weighed in light of such
understandable emotionality. That others make similar assertions,
however, argues for a full airing of what exactly transpired in a
relationship that could play out at the end of this week -- when, if
Michael gets his way, Terri's feeding tubes will be removed.
Indeed, friend Jackie Rhodes has testified that she and Terri spoke of a
possible divorce "on several occasions."
It was Michael who called paramedics after the collapse of Terri, who was
later found to have signs of fractures in a number of areas but who
showed no outward sign of violence when police arrived -- leaving those
fractures to remain as what a former attorney calls "a true mystery."
Were they the result of a fracas, or due to overly aggressive physical
therapy once Terri was institutionalized?
On March 5, 1991, a bone scan of Terri revealed a healed broken right
femur bone and healed fractures in Terri's ribs, pelvis, spine, and
ankle. The radiologist, Dr. W. Campbell Walker, concluded that Terri had
"a history of trauma."
A police spokesman told Spirit Daily that a physical exam at the time of
the incident detected no trauma to the head or neck, and there were no
official records relating to reports of previous abuse, causing
detectives to drop the matter, which initially was routed, as are all
peculiar circumstances, to the homicide division.
The police saw no signs of a struggle that would indicate that they were
dealing with a crime scene. And they argue that they can no longer
investigate the case, because the statute of limitations on aggravated
battery, if it occurred, would have elapsed.
But the mere circumstances set the stage for a series of questions: Has
the judge properly considered the husband's behavior in granting him such
authority over the matter? Or is there a conspiracy of silence among
those who hope that after March 18 this matter -- controversial now for
years -- will finally fade away?
Within 48 hours of Terri's admittance to the hospital that February
morning, the attorney for Michael's employer arrived at the hospital. It
was at this momentous point that the lawyer consulted with Terri's
parents outside of Intensive Care and recommended that they sign
documents that would allow Michael to handle Terri's medical affairs in
order to expedite emergency treatment. When Terri was admitted to the
hospital, says the family, it was noted that there was stiffness in her
neck, and later medical exams detected the anomalies that could be
consistent with an assault.
Emphasize the word "could."; it is only a possibility. But it is a deeply
disturbing one and further details complicate defense attempts to dismiss
the allegations. To wit:
Terri's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, claims that she too had an argument
with Michael in an episode after Terri's collapse when he "started to
lunge toward me and I thought that he was going to punch me in the face.
My father had to step between us before he got to me."
Was this simply part of Michael's personality, or the result of strain
from what had happened to his wife? I
At least one other woman who had a relationship with Schiavo asserted
intimidation. Her name is Cindy Shook, and she reportedly took up with
Michael more than a year after the collapse. In a May 8, 2001 deposition,
Shook claimed that Michael "stalked" her after she stopped dating him and
described him as at times "the most incredibly mean person." Highly
reluctant to come forward due to her fears, Shook expressed concerns for
her children and husband.
"One time he was behind me in traffic, he got next to me in a two-lane
going the same way, and he changed lanes basically right on top of where
I was at, and I had to swerve not to be hit," Shook reportedly said. "I
considered it as stalking, dangerous and guessed potentially
life-threatening." Cindy said that Schiavo got angry when asked about
wife Terri, saying that "this had destroyed his life and he was being
robbed of a normal life."
Pat Anderson, an attorney who represented the Schindlers for more than
three years and took many of the depositions, says that she scrutinized
such testimony carefully and that "I've never seen an adult as scared as
Meanwhile, Carla Sauer Iyer, a nurse who tended to Terri from April 1995
to July 1996, has likewise described a pattern of intense intimidation
and asserts that after Michael visited at the nursing home, Palm Garden
of Largo Convalescent Center, Terri would clench her fists and be in a
Concerned about what might be transpiring in the room, and the general
tenor of Schiavo, who allegedly became upbeat anytime Terri showed signs
of illness, "I ultimately called the police relative to this situation,
and was terminated the next day," testified Iyer, who added that "I
became fearful for my personal safety. This was due to Michael's constant
intimidation, including his menacing body language, vocal tone, and
Where does this lead us? What are we to think?
We can come to no conclusions. We can not convict anyone at this stage.
We are not out to accuse, nor to judge. Our mission is one of prayer. Let
us pray for all involved, including Michael Schiavo. We are not called to
disdain, but to speak the truth and to love. The truth is that a life is
now at stake and that the system has failed in clearing this matter
through an investigation -- which it must do, taking the matter out of
the hands of the judge and placing Terri into the care of her parents.
Such an inquiry would either substantiate the case against Michael
Schiavo, or clear his name. In that vein, it seems inexplicable that
Judge Greer, local police, the state attorney, federal officials and
other authorities have ignored such grave descriptions of events in a
case that will one day be seen as momentous.