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Family feud still boils after Schiavo's death

Husband's brother says he'll never forgive Schindlers


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Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, describes Terri Schiavo's last hours.
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(CNN) -- Terri Schiavo's death Thursday did nothing to lessen the bitter feud between the Schiavos and the Schindlers -- with both sides continuing their war of words even as they mourned.

Her death came less than 12 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her parents' last appeal and nearly two weeks after doctors, acting on an order issued by a state circuit court judge, removed her life-sustaining feeding tube. (Full story)

She was 41 and had been incapacitated since 1990, when she suffered a heart attack that caused permanent brain damage.

None of Schiavo's blood relatives were in the Woodside Hospice room in Pinellas Park, Florida, when she died Thursday morning, a sore point among the Schindler family. (Bedside scene)

And a brother of Michael Schiavo vowed Thursday night that he will never forgive her biological family for portraying his brother as a "murderer."

Brian Schiavo berated the Schindler family, their lead lawyer and a Catholic priest who is their friend.

"If you don't think my brother has been vilified from day one, then I tell you you'd better study the record ... he's been nothing but be accused of being a murderer," Brian Schiavo said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Asked whether any healing was possible between the families, he replied, "I have no idea. Not from me. I'll tell you that. Maybe with Michael, but not from me."

"From the very beginning of this ... these people have done nothing but twist and turn and spin this thing .... they've made my brother out to be a demon, vilified as a murderer."

Brian Schiavo was in the room with his brother when Terri Schiavo died after 13 days without hydration and nutrition. He said his brother was heartbroken.

"He is extremely tired and very sad and very emotional. He's lost his wife," Brian Schiavo said.

Another Schiavo brother, Scott, was asked whether there could be eventual peace between the families. He replied, "I think if the Schindlers apologize to him there could be."

He contends the family feud began when the Schindlers didn't receive any of the $1 million Michael Schiavo won in a 1993 malpractice lawsuit stemming from his wife's condition.

Terri Schiavo's father, Bob, promised to make his brother's life "a living hell," Scott Schiavo said in a CNN interview.

Asked about his affection for Terri's mother, Mary Schindler, despite the atmosphere of animosity, Scott Schiavo said, "My heart still goes out to her. I sat here the other night and watched Mary Schindler and it just ripped me apart."

Images of Terri Schiavo in her hospice room have been relentlessly flashed across television screens during the last few weeks.

"The hardest part has been watching Terri's dignity just get ripped out of her, because she would have been totally ripped up, just heartbroken, if she had seen all these pictures of her.

"She was a very proud person. When she went out in public, she liked to look nice, and her appearance was everything to her," he said. "If she had seen the pictures and the videos, she would have been crushed."

Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers had been locked in a bitter court battle since 1998. The husband contended his wife wouldn't have wanted to be kept alive by artificial means. The parents argued that if she had intense therapy she would significantly recover.

One of the biggest disputes Thursday arose when Terri Schiavo's blood relatives were not allowed in the room when she died.

Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, and his sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, had been in the room visiting their sibling for about an hour and 45 minutes when a hospice administrator notified Michael Schiavo that his wife was in her final stages.

Bobby Schindler got upset when a hospice official asked the siblings to leave the room so that Schiavo's condition could be evaluated.

"There was not a confrontation," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest and friend of the family who was there. "He was simply emotionally upset as anyone would be. ... He was told on no uncertain terms" they had to leave.

The Schiavo side gave a different version, saying the brother confronted a police officer who was trying to shepherd them out.

"Bobby caused a commotion with the police officer," Brian Schiavo said.

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, stood by his client's decision to have Terri Schiavo's brother and sister leave the room.

"She had a right to have her last and final moments on this Earth be experienced by a spirit of love and not of acrimony," he said.

According to Pavone, he tried to talk to Michael Schiavo about the family tension, but with no success.

"I have appealed to Michael to sit down and dialog about this, to work toward reconciliation," said Pavone, national director of the group Priests for Life. "I've heard nothing from him."

"What happened here was Terri was killed."

That prompted another salvo from Brian Schiavo, who called Pavone "a poor excuse of a priest, I'll tell you that."

"He made a comment that said the flowers in Terri's room were being treated better than she is. That was a slap in the face to the people who work in that hospice. He ought to be ashamed of himself," Brian Schiavo said.

About the Schindlers' lead attorney, David Gibbs, Brian Schiavo said, "David Gibbs better get his act together, because I'm getting sick and tired of everything being twisted and turned."

He added that if the public can't believe that his brother was fulfilling his wife's wishes, "they can pound sand."

Gibbs shot back, "I don't think it's productive for the parties to snipe back and forth."

"They are heartsick today that Terri has stepped into eternity," Gibbs said. "She was starved and dehydrated to death."

The lawyer added, "Bob and Mary Schindler [Terri Schiavo's parents] did everything they could to save her life."

Two of Terri Schiavo's longtime friends said the entire family battle would have greatly upset their friend.

"It's just a very difficult situation all the way around. I know it's something Terri would have hated," Cathy Coak said.

Sue Pickwell added: "I hope that people learn how to truly appreciate and have compassion for people and love one another -- and not fight. Terri would not have wanted that."


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