Funeral plans in works; deputies guard autopsy site

Published April 1, 2005

PINELLAS PARK - As forensic investigators complete an autopsy on Terri Schiavo, arrangements for a local funeral are under way.

The service, arranged by Schiavo's parents and siblings, will be Tuesday or Wednesday. An exact time should be available today.

The Rev. William J. Swengros, pastor at Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Gulfport, said Terri's mother, Mary Schindler, started attending his church about two months ago. He said he offered the 450-seat church for the funeral Mass several weeks ago.

But Most Holy Name might be too small, Swengros said, which could move the service to the 1,000-seat Cathedral of Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg.

Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski will preside, and the Rev. Frank Pavone will probably give the eulogy.

Swengros said he was "inspired" after talking with Mrs. Schindler on Thursday.

"I would say that she must be a very deeply spiritual woman," Swengros said. "She said to me she is at peace now. I thought that was really beautiful because she easily could have become bitter."

As for the autopsy, forensic investigators could finish examining Schiavo's body as early as today. It will be be released to her husband, Michael Schiavo, for burial. Schiavo has said he will have the body cremated and the ashes buried in a family plot in Pennsylvania.

William Pellan, director of forensic investigations at the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office, said the autopsy would become public when all tests and the final report were finished in several weeks.

Pellan read from a prepared statement saying the autopsy was mandated by Florida law and that "family requests are immaterial in that determination." The examination itself would be mostly routine, and would include a battery of X-rays and "a thorough neuropathology examination by a board-certified neuropathologist," Pellan said.

But it was clear outside the office that the autopsy was not routine. Security barriers and sheriff's deputies ringed the building, and deputies controlled access to the parking lots for the medical examiner's office and the nearby sheriff's office.