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Schiavo book offers plots, few answers

Silent Witness hits the shelves after two months of research and writing. The author? Mark Fuhrman, former L.A. police detective.

By JAMIE THOMPSON
Published June 29, 2005


[Times photo: Lara Cerri]
Mark Fuhrman's book on the Terri Schiavo case made its national debut Tuesday. Fuhrman (photo right) says Schiavo's husband, Michael, "knows more than he has stated."

The new book promises to answer some of the most tantalizing questions about the Terri Schiavo case: What was her marriage really like? What happened the morning she collapsed?

The 255-page hardback, Silent Witness, The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death , made its national debut Tuesday. It was written by Mark Fuhrman, the former Los Angeles police detective turned bestselling author.

The book did not appear to generate much initial excitement in several Tampa Bay area bookstores, despite prominent displays.

"I think we've pretty much heard it all," said 58-year-old Eva Oliver of Seminole, who paused to look at the $25.95 book but decided against buying it at the Barnes & Noble on Tyrone Boulevard.

In the two months Fuhrman spent researching and writing the book, he says he had the full cooperation of Schiavo's parents and siblings. It is clear he shares their suspicion of Schiavo's husband, Michael.

Fuhrman stops short of accusing Michael Schiavo of harming his wife, but spends a great deal of time offering scenarios in which Michael Schiavo could have accidentally or intentionally contributed to his wife's collapse in 1990. He offers no proof of wrongdoing.

"I don't accuse him of anything. That would be irresponsible," Fuhrman said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "The best way to say it is, he knows more than he has stated."

Fuhrman said Michael Schiavo declined to be interviewed for the book.

Schiavo's brother, Brian, told the St. Petersburg Times that no one in the family plans to read the book, which he described as the continuation of a smear campaign.

Fuhrman has no credibility after his role in the O.J. Simpson murder case, Brian Schiavo said. Fuhrman pleaded no contest to a charge of perjury after the trial.

"Who cares what Mark Fuhrman thinks?" Brian Schiavo said. "We want to congratulate him on his new fiction career."

Despite the ambitious promises on the jacket cover, Fuhrman's book asks more questions than it answers. He recites many facts, which appear to be generally accurate, but offers them in a way that casts suspicion on Michael Schiavo.

He begins with a short introduction, explaining that he watched the Schiavo saga from afar and decided to write the book several days after her death. He said he received a telephone call from Sean Hannity, the conservative Fox News talk show host, who asked him to look into the case. Hannity had grown close to Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, while covering the story in Florida.

Fuhrman said he wanted to answer several key questions: How did Schiavo collapse? Had she been abused or murdered?

He spent a month researching the case in Florida, meeting with members of the Schindler family eight to 10 times. He said he read some of the court documents, but not all of them, because of time constraints. He spent another few weeks writing the book from an office above his garage, overlooking the Idaho mountains.

Instead of offering answers, he offers hypotheses.

In one chapter, "Possible Scenarios," Fuhrman offers six imagined plots that led to Schiavo's condition, which some doctors described as a persistent vegetative state. He suggests everything from Michael Schiavo panicking and failing to give his wife CPR as precious minutes ticked by, to him applying "some force" on his wife that left her unconscious.

The scenarios describe "within a certain range of accuracy what happened to Terri Schiavo. I wish I knew which one," Fuhrman writes.

Michael Schiavo has said repeatedly that he loved his wife and called 911 immediately after her collapse.

Fuhrman made the rounds on national talk shows Tuesday, appearing on NBC's Today show with Schiavo's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo.

Fuhrman told the Times that the Schindlers were not making any money from his book. He declined to say how much he was paid to write it, and said he did not know how many books were printed.

The book drew curious glances, but few buyers, in several bookstores in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Scott Caprio, a 39-year-old paramedic from Largo, did a double-take when he walked past the display at the Borders on Tyrone Boulevard.

"Why would anyone read anything by Mark Fuhrman, with his reputation?" Caprio said. "They made him look really bad in the O.J. case."

At a nearby Barnes & Noble, Lauree Deabreu flipped through the photographs in the book just before leaving the store with her two children, 10 and 13. Deabreu said the family had already spent its limit on books that day, but she planned to buy Fuhrman's book on a future visit.

"I'd like to know more from the family's side," said Deabreu, who agreed with the Schindlers in the case.

No books had sold at the Borders on North Dale Mabry in Tampa by 3:30 p.m.

A clerk at a nearby Barnes & Noble in Tampa said she had sold only one copy between 11 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. "We haven't seen a lot of interest yet," said store manager Jim Olsen.

Several store managers said, however, it can take a few days before word spreads about a new release.

Fuhrman's other books include Murder in Greenwich , about the 1975 death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, for which Michael Skakel was convicted in 2002.

Brian Schiavo predicted Fuhrman's latest book would be a "dust gatherer."

"He saw this as an opportunity to make some money," Brian Schiavo said. "That's what this is about. It's a joke."

Fuhrman declined to respond to Schiavo's comments, other than to call them "silly."

"You've got to admit one thing - I'm asking questions," he said. "Why can't they answer?"

He had one final thought before starting his next interview.

"If you could put this in there: If Michael ever wants to go on a show, I'd be glad to appear with him."

--Times Staff writer Brian White and researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Jamie Thompson can be reached at 727 893-8455 or at jthompson@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 29, 2005, 05:25:04]


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