As Terri Schiavo enters what are thought to be her last hours of life, allegations of political corruption and obstruction of justice on the part of state officials raise questions as to whether the brain-injured woman’s court-ordered death by starvation might serve to cover up crimes committed against her.
Criminal probes launched by two Florida agencies looking into allegations the incapacitated woman was abused, neglected and exploited were shut down, despite investigators’ concerns.
One investigation took place at the Department of Children and Families, or DCF, in late 2001. The other was conducted by agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or FDLE, in August 2003.
Both agencies are mandated by Florida Statutes 415 and 825 to detect and correct the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly or disabled adults.
The individual whose 700-page anonymous complaint prompted the DCF to conduct a 60-day investigation into numerous alleged violations of state statutes protecting disabled and incapacitated people tells WND the DCF investigator gave him the impression he thought the allegations were credible and he was sorry the probe got aborted by his superiors.
The complainant, who wishes to remain unnamed, tells WND he spent numerous hours over a period of several weeks working with the DCF adult protective services investigator after filing his complaint in November 2001.
“It was clear to me that he found credibility in most, if not all, the charges,” the complainant said of the investigator.
But when the investigator turned his report in to his superiors, he reportedly hit a brick wall.
“It went up the ladder. It crashed. The report findings were marked ‘Unfounded but With Recommendations,'” the complainant recalls the investigator telling him.
When the complainant expressed disbelief at the outcome and asked what “with recommendations” meant, he says the investigator became tight-lipped.
“I’ve said too much. All I can say is keep up the fight,” the investigator said.
At the time, DCF attorney Frank Nagatani publicly declared: “DCF is not going to get involved [in the Terri Schiavo case] until this is out of the court.”
Florida Department of State Election records show Nagatani contributed to the 1998 election campaign of 6th Judicial Circuit Court Judge George Greer, the primary adjudicator in the Terri Schiavo case. While no records exist detailing the amount of Nagatani’s total contribution, according to Greer’s reported campaign expenditures, Nagatani was paid $18.75 on Aug. 11, 1998 for a “partial contribution refund.”
WorldNetDaily reported Michael Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, also donated to Greer’s re-election campaign. The $250 contribution was made by Felos’ law firm, Felos & Felos, on May 7, 2004 – one day after Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Douglas Baird ruled “Terri’s Law” unconstitutional.
Terri Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have been locked in a 7-year court battle with her estranged husband, Michael Schiavo, over her fate.
Terri responds to her mother.
Michael Schiavo maintains he’s carrying out Terri’s wishes not to be kept alive artificially.
“My aim is to carry out Terri’s wishes,” Schiavo told WND. “If Terri would even know that I had somebody taking care of her bodily functions, she’d kill us all in a heartbeat. She’d be so angry.”
Terri is not hooked up to any life-support machines, but requires the feeding tube for nourishment. Doctors removed it March 18 per Greer’s court order, after a flurry of eleventh-hour appeals by the Schindlers failed.
In February 2000, Greer ruled that statements Terri allegedly made to Michael Schiavo, his brother and his brother’s wife a year before her injury that she didn’t want to be kept alive artificially were “clear and confincing evidence” of her wishes.
The Schindlers reject their daughter, a devout Roman Catholic, would have made such statements.
After eight days of dehydration and starvation, Terri Schiavo is “still responsive” but is “weakening,” according to Bob Schindler.
“She’s down to her last hours. Something has to be done and has to be done quick,” he told reporters outside the hospice where Terri resides.
Michael Schiavo’s brother, Brian Schiavo, told CNN Terri Schiavo “does look a little withdrawn,” but said she was not in pain, calling starvation “part of the death process.”
Shortly after the complainant was informed the DCF investigation was scrubbed, Pat Anderson, the attorney representing the Schindlers at the time issued a subpoena to the investigator to find out what went on at DCF.
During a hearing held by Greer on Jan. 23, 2002 over Felos’ counter-motion to quash the subpoena, Greer is said to have indicated he knew about the DCF report. He ruled in favor of quashing the subpoena and nothing came of the DCF investigation.
Curiously, an anonymous person at DCF mailed a box, presumably containing the hefty complaint, back to the complainant in September 2003. The outside of the box was marked: “You may need this. It was scheduled for destruction.”
The complainant was instructed by Schindler attorneys not to open the box for fear of damaging any fingerprints, and to keep it in a secure place for possible use as evidence later.
Off again, on again DCF
The DCF complainant suspects Nagatani’s departure from the social services agency explains the recent attempted intervention in the ongoing court battle, contrary to his pledge to stay on the sidelines until its conclusion.
WND reported the DCF launched a new investigation late last month into 30 new complaints of
“abuse, neglect or exploitation” the agency said came through its anonymous abuse hot line on Feb. 18 and Feb. 21.
DCF filed a petition to intervene in the case and requested a 60-day stay of Greer’s ordered removal of the feeding tube while it conducts an investigation.
Among the allegations of abuse or neglect on the part of Michael Schiavo are:
- Failure to file proper guardianship plan or report
- Denial of access to legal counsel on different occasions
- Failure to educate using certain therapies in violation of guardianship
- Experimental procedures performed without proper medical and legal procedures observed
- Current confinement issues at ward’s residence
- Lack of manipulation of the ward’s arms, causing severe contractures
- Lack of communication/visitation
The 11-page confidential document supplied to attorneys references the earlier investigation.
“There are allegations that DCF has investigated that have been closed as unfounded. While the DCF stands by its past decisions, it nevertheless reserves its rights to review any updated or relevant information in the full fair and final determination of this matter given the totality of the circumstances,” reads the court petition.
Anticipating Greer’s repeated rulings since 2001 dismissing the allegations as old news, the petition states: “The court’s determination that it has reviewed some or all of these facts does not relieve DCF from discharging its [statutory] investigative duties.”
The motion is signed by Adult Protective Investigations Supervisor Michael Will and and DCF attorney Kelly McKibben.
Felos blasted the DCF’s attempt to intervene in the case, saying it “reeks of political arm-twisting.”
On Wednesday, Greer dismissed the DCF’s motion for a 60-day stay of his court order to remove the feeding tube.
FDLE’s open-and-shut case
As first reported by the Empire Journal, two FDLE agents looked into accusations Terri Schiavo was battered by her husband prior to her mysterious collapse, and has been the victim of abuse and neglect at nursing homes and hospice ever since.
WorldNetDaily has obtained a heavily redacted copy of the FDLE report filed by special agent Terrell Rhodes that indicates an investigation was launched Aug. 10, 2003 after special agent Mark Dubina received information regarding a criminal complaint from Anderson.
The basis of Anderson’s request, according to the report, was the discovery of a nuclear imaging bone
scan performed on Terri Schiavo by Dr. W. Campbell Walker at Manatee Memorial Hospital on March 3, 1991 – 13 months after her collapse.
In February of 1990 at the age of 26, Terri Schiavo collapsed at home and oxygen was cut off to her brain for several minutes. The cause of the collapse is disputed. Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband, blames a cardiac arrest induced by a potassium imbalance associated with bulimia. The Schindlers suspect he tried to strangle her, based on court testimony by a neurologist that Terri had suffered a neck injury when she was admitted to the hospital.
WorldNetDaily reported the bone scan describes what are known as “hot spots” suggestive of multiple fractures in her ribs, first lumbar vertebra,
several thoracic vertebrae, both sacroiliac joints, and both knees and ankles, all deemed “presumably
traumatic” by Walker.
“The patient has a history of trauma,” writes Walker in the report. “The presumption is that the other multiple areas of abnormal activity [“hot spots”] also relate to previous trauma.”
WND reported Felos called the implication of abuse “garbage.” Citing medical records, he told WND a follow-up X-ray done to verify the cause of the “hot spots” showed “degenerative bone disease, not multiple fractures … and only showed a minor fracture in the femur.”
The Empire Journal, quoting anonymous sources, reports that when Dubina opened a file into the case, he
was called into his supervisor’s office and told to shut down the investigation not once, but twice.
Dubina and another agent have reportedly contacted the current attorneys representing the Schindlers
and given statements detailing the “cover up” by FDLE superiors, which they suspect, according to Empire Journal, was ordered by Bernie McCabe, state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco County.
Calls to Dubina and the Clearwater office of FDLE where the investigation was initiated were not returned.
The report indicates the findings of the investigation were reviewed by Regional Director Lance Newman, Investigative Chief Moses Jordan and Special Agent Supervisor Troy Walker.
A final decision was made that FDLE would not continue the investigation primarily because “any criminal violation that might have occurred would have been within the city of St. Petersburg” and therefore out of FDLE’s jurisdiction.
The other reasons cited were:
“No indisputable evidence was identified that could justify a case for charging Michael Schiavo with
physical, domestic abuse”
“It would not be possible to prosecute Michael Schiavo of a crime if the allegation could be proven due
to the statute of limitations of criminal proceedings under Florida State Statute 775.15.”
Sources told the Empire Journal indictments have come out of cases with less evidence than was presented in this probe.
The Bradenton Herald reports McCabe reviewed some of Terri Schiavo’s medical records but found no evidence of abuse. He also noted that even if there was abuse, the statute of limitations had
The Tallahassee-based Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, the state-appointed group that monitors the treatment of disabled adults also attempted to investigate the abuse
allegations but said it was blocked by Michael Schiavo when he denied permission to examine his wife.
The allegations probed by DCF, FDLE and McCabe mirror those raised repeatedly – and unsuccessfully – in motions filed by the Schindlers seeking the removal of Michael Schiavo as their daughter’s legal guardian.
Among the Schindlers neglect and abuse complaints is that Michael Schiavo:
- Has not allowed therapy or rehabilitation since late 1992.
- Has prevented swallowing tests or swallowing therapy since 1993.
- Ordered caretakers not to clean Terri’s teeth since 1995, resulting in removal of five teeth in April
- Placed Terri in hospice in 2000, despite the fact she is not terminally ill.
- Refuses to allow Terri to leave her room. She has not been outside since 2000.
- Ordered doctors not to treat Terri when she had a life threatening infection in 1993 and 1995.
Former caregivers filed affidavits with the court claiming Michael Schiavo withheld medical care and rehabilitative therapy from his wife and indicated he wanted her to die.
In her sworn deposition, certified nursing
assistant Heidi Law said she and a co-worker secretly disobeyed Michael Schiavo’s orders and gave Terri range of motion therapy behind closed doors.
“We knew we were endangering our jobs by doing so,” Law wrote. “We usually did this behind closed doors, we were so fearful of being caught. Our hearts would race and we were always looking out for Michael, because we knew that, not only would Michael take his anger out on us, but he would take it out more on Terri. We spoke of this many times.”
Law, who cared for Terri Schiavo at the nursing home where she resided from March to mid- 1997, also detailed instances when Terri swallowed liquids and Jello.
“At least three times during any shift where I took care of Terri, I made sure to give Terri a wet washcloth filled with ice chips, to keep her mouth moistened. I personally saw her swallow the ice water
and never saw her gag,” Law wrote. “On three or four occasions I personally fed Terri small mouthfuls of Jello, which she was able to swallow and enjoyed immensely. I did not do it more often only because I was so afraid of being caught by Michael.”
The caregivers reported hearing Terri Schiavo say “mommy,” “pain,” and “help me,” and say the notes they kept of her progress were consistently deleted from her file.
Michael Schiavo says Terri Schiavo has not said a word since 1990.
He has repeatedly and strenously denied allegations of abuse and neglect.
Felos called the caregivers’ testimony “a bunch of garbage” and said their accounts of Terri Schiavo talking were “total fabrication.”
For backround on the 15-year saga, read “The whole Terri Schiavo story.”
Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organization – and exposing the many troubling, scandalous, and possibly criminal, aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WorldNetDaily’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including over 150 original stories and columns.
Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.
Links to all “Terri briefs” regarding the governor’s defense of Terri’s Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.