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Marks on Terri Schiavo not abuse, police say

Tiny wounds on her arms may have been left by a device that lifts her. Tests also find nothing to support suspicions she got unauthorized injections.

Published May 15, 2004

CLEARWATER - Police have closed an investigation into marks found on the arms of Terri Schiavo after finding no evidence the tiny wounds were the result of a crime.

A nursing assistant noticed the marks on March 29 and reported it to a nurse. Staff members also found Schiavo's feeding tube apparently had been wrapped around her chair, while a wrist bracelet she wore had been pushed up near her elbow.

A purple cap, which appeared to be from some kind of medical device, was tucked in her clothing, staff members reported.

The discoveries were made after Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, visited her that day at Park Place assisted living facility in Clearwater.

Staffers told Schiavo's husband, Michael, of their findings. Schiavo was taken to Mease-Dunedin Hospital, where toxicology tests found no suspicious substances in her body. Clearwater police began investigating what might caused the marks.

Police say they are unsure how Schiavo received the marks, but said they could have been caused by a device used to lift Schiavo from her bed to her chair.

The marks on her right forearm were described as three small dots, along with an apparent scratch mark over the top of the dots. A fourth dot was found closer to her right hand, and another was on the outside of her left biceps.

As for the purple cap, police determined it is a catheter syringe tip adapter that is used as a plastic tubing connector in medical feeding and irrigation setups. The device is not used for injections.

Police do not know how the cap ended up in Schiavo's clothes. The cap is not used by staff at the assisted living facility. Tests on the cap found no foreign substances.

Police say Schiavo's bracelet may have worked itself up near her elbow because her arms often contract upward. Police found no indications the feeding tube was tampered with, and an alarm that sounds if feeding is interrupted never went off.

Michael Schiavo and his attorney have suggested someone tried to introduce something into Terri Schiavo's body. The Schindlers were their daughter's only visitors that day.

The Schindlers told police they did not try to introduce anything to their daughter.

Terri Schiavo, 40, collapsed 14 years ago and exists in what the courts have called a "persistent vegetative state." Michael Schiavo, her guardian, wants to remove her feeding tube. The Schindlers have fought to keep her alive. The two sides have been locked in a court battle for years.

Meanwhile, an appeals court wants the Florida Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of a law that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to keep Schiavo alive.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal suggested in a ruling obtained Friday that it wants Schiavo's case expedited to the high court. It gave Bush and Schiavo's husband 10 days to show why it should not be sent to the Supreme Court as "a matter of great importance requiring immediate resolution by that court."

Schiavo was disconnected in October from the feeding and hydration tube that has kept her alive for more than a decade. But six days later, the law pushed by Bush gave him the power to order the tube reconnected.

Pinellas Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird ruled "Terri's Law" unconstitutional May 6, saying it violates her right to privacy and delegated legislative power to the governor. The governor's office filed an appeal that kept the tube in place.

- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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