Last year, my husband of 40 years died suddenly of a heart attack. The public story is that I came home and found him laying across our bed, lifeless and clutching his chest. This is more or less the truth, but it is not the whole truth. The whole truth is that my husband was a lying, cheating S.O.B. who was never faithful a day in our marriage. I happened to come home early from a spa day because I was not feeling well, and I caught him in bed with our granddaughter's pretty, young kick-boxing instructor. What happened next is what has me troubled:
"Shari", the kickboxing instructor, screamed and tried to push "Wayne" off of her, which startled Wayne. The shock from Shari's screaming and me walking in on them - combined with Wayne's heart condition - were more than the old bastard's ticker could take, and it conked out on him. Needless to say, some very awkward moments followed as the paramedics that were called to our home came accompanied by the police, and Shari and I were both interviewed for details. My granddaughter has since found a new kickboxing instructor, and I have found the peace of mind that I never knew while married.
The anniversary of my husband's death is approaching, and Shari has contacted me regarding Wayne's death. She feels that she may somehow have contributed to his heart attack by pushing him off of her, maybe shoving him a little too hard, and in turn causing his fatal heart attack. Personally, I think she is full of guilt and nothing more; but what if she is right? Am I somehow in collusion with covering up an unlawful death if I do not report this? I do not wish to drag my late husband - and my family - through the mud with scandal; but nor do I wish to be part of a conspiracy surrounding my husband's sudden death. When I told Shari this, she said she would keep quiet about it for a "share" of my late husband's estate (a considerable sum). To buy some time, I told her I would think about it; but I will not be blackmailed!
Incidentally, because my husband died unexpectedly at home, an autopsy was done and the Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death to be "natural". I know that Wayne was always forgetting to take his heart medication, plus he was at least 50 pounds overweight and his doctor had warned him that he was cheating death; which is why I tend to believe the Medical Examiner and suspect that Shari is overreacting.
Dear Hardly Grieving:
I ran your question by a retired police officer turned attorney, who informed me that if the Medical Examiner suspected foul play s/he would have noted it in the autopsy report. Because bodies are examined as-is at the scene and in-depth during the autopsy procedure, it was obvious to all in charge that Wayne did not die in his sleep, in spite of the fact that he died in bed. A shove to the chest hard enough to incite a heart attack would leave bruising on the torso, something that would also be noted in an autopsy report and investigated by the police - at the scene of the crime, and afterwards.
According to the Rhode Island Medical Examiner's Office (the state in which I am based), the Medical Examiner determines the cause of death in any suspicious death, which is defined as a death occurring outside of a medical facility or when the deceased was not receiving medical care for a long-term health issue. Medical Examiners also determine the type of death (homicide, suicide, accidental, natural, or undetermined) and document any injuries found on the body, determining whether they are pre or post-mortem.
Now, this is Tazi talking: You give the authorities and the Medical Examiner too little credit in their ability to do their jobs properly. You do not mention Wayne's age, but after 40 years of marriage I think it is safe to assume that he was in his sixties or older. Age, combined with a heart condition, a poor track-record for taking his medication, strenuous activity (which is something sex can be considered), extra weight around the middle (which is where men tend to carry it), and the shock of having your wife walk in on you as you are trying to please a "pretty, young kickboxing instructor" all make for the perfect storm that can stress the heart to the breaking point; especially if one was at high risk for heart attack, as your late husband was.
Since an autopsy required in spite of the fact that your husband was under a doctor's care, the idea of foul-play may have already been considered and dismissed. As the Medical Examiner's report did not mention bruising, you may want to contact a private Medical Examiner for a second opinion and a review of the original Medical Examiner's report, informing the original Medical Examiner of your actions and explaining the situation, and offer permission for the two Medical Examiners to discuss the matter. If the private Medical Examiner agrees that a lack of bruising shows a lack of force strong enough to incite a heart attack, I would allow the matter to rest. If, however, there is any question in the matter you have an obligation to report this information to the proper authorities as soon as possible - or else you just might be in conspiracy in keeping secret the true manner of your husband's death. I would also report Shari's attempt to blackmail you. I wish you luck.
P.S. Considering his age and physique, your late husband must have had quite a large wallet if he was able to attract a pretty, young kickboxing instructor!
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.