Family feud over Schiavo stayed bitter until end
Published: Friday, April 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 1, 2005 at 12:01 a.m.
PINELLAS PARK - The scorching family feud over Terri Schiavo didn't end with her death.
Her siblings bitterly complained that they were not allowed to be at Schiavo's bedside in her final moments. The family of husband Michael Schiavo said they would not invite the in-laws to the funeral to make sure they don't show up and turn the burial into a media spectacle.
Bobby Schindler and Suzanne Vitadamo - who were with their sister about 10 minutes before she died - asked to be there to witness her death but Michael Schiavo refused, said the Rev. Frank Pavone, who had been inside the hospice.
"His heartless cruelty continues until this very last moment," Pavone said of Michael Schiavo.
Michael Schiavo feared a "potentially explosive" situation after Bobby Schindler argued with a law enforcement official over whether they could stay in the room and decided his wife "deserved better," said Schiavo's attorney George Felos.
He said Terri Schiavo's siblings initially had been asked to leave the room so that the hospice staff could examine her. He said Bobby Schindler resisted and got into an argument with the law officer. Michael Schiavo didn't allow them in the room to avoid the "possibility of an altercation," Felos said.
"Mr. Schiavo's overriding concern here was to provide for Terri a peaceful death with dignity," Felos said.
Michael Schiavo was at his wife's bedside when she died. The Schindlers were allowed in the room to spend time with the body after Terri died, nearly 13 days after the feeding tube which had kept her alive since 1990 was removed.
The bitterness in the hospice was not all that surprising considering the enormous amount of bad blood that has marked the case over the years.
Parents Bob and Mary Schindler and Michael Schiavo fought in court over her custody, over what religious rites would be performed and whether her parents could take one last family portrait including Terri before she died.
Now that she is dead, there also might be a lingering fight over her body.
The Schindlers went to court last month in hopes of gaining custody of their daughter's body so they can bury her in Florida and visit her grave. But Michael Schiavo successfully defended his plans to have his wife cremated and her remains interred in the Schiavo family plot in their native Pennsylvania.
His brother said Thursday that the Schiavos will keep the location of the plot secret, so the Schindlers do not show up.
"I would hope and pray there can be some sort of reconciliation for this family," Felos said. "I don't know if that can happen. I hope it can."
The fight between Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers was so bitter and heated the two sides have not talked to each other in nearly seven years.
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