Dead Reckoning

Only Michael Furlong knows how his wife fell to her death. But the authorities know this isn't the first time he's lost a mate.

Terry Roberts, a co-worker of Deanna's at Packaging Resources, remembers the first conversation she had with Furlong--back when he and Deanna were still engaged. Roberts was having trouble with her son at the time, she says, and "Michael proceeded to tell me his children would be beaten and put in a closet if they ever acted out."

Roberts thought of Deanna's children: Andy, then eleven years old and devoted to his father; seven-year-old Jacquie, still recovering from the kidnapping, still afraid that someone was coming to kill her.

Roberts says she listened for a long time, then grabbed the slightly built Furlong by the shirt. "You most certainly will not touch those children, because if you do, the next time we have this discussion you'll be in jail," she told him.

Deanna went ahead with the marriage in April 1994, however, and her complaints started soon after. Michael refused to help around the house; he rifled through Andy's drawers and destroyed or gave away the children's possessions, once throwing out a handmade antique rocking chair Jacquie had been given by her grandparents. He demanded that the children say "Yes, sir" and "No, ma'am" to adults; when they refused to eat, he spoon-fed them.

Almost anything could serve as a weapon in Michael's long and weary war of attrition against Deanna, even the assaultively loud rock he insisted on playing when she was in the car.

Dealing with the stress had Deanna looking haggard and old, Hammer remembers. She'd stay awake past midnight in her struggle to keep up with her job, take care of her children, manage the tight family budget and keep the house in order. Hammer ate dinner with the family once and once only--on that occasion, she says, Furlong made Andy stand in the corner throughout the meal.

A year after they were married, the Furlongs had a daughter, Jessica. Although Michael was devoted to her, having his own child seemed to exacerbate his cruelty toward Andy and Jacquie. Another co-worker of Deanna's, Sandy Schara, reports that she took the family some food soon after Jessica's birth. Michael was holding the baby, and Andy was playing with her fingers. "Andy's finger went in her mouth and she made a face," Schara says. "What came out of Michael's mouth at that point was, 'I don't blame her. I'd spit out that fat finger myself.'"

If there were no actual beatings in the Furlong household, there was a constant threat of violence. Andy was sometimes physically hurled into his room; Jacquie was led by the ear into hers. At one point Michael threw Andy down the stairs. The boy's knee made a hole in the wall as he spun and caught himself halfway down. (Andy reported that this had happened only once, but a police report after Deanna's death quotes Furlong as saying, "No one gets hurt falling down those stairs. Andy fell down the stairs a bunch of times and didn't get hurt.")

And once Furlong told Andy, "I'm gonna beat you like I own you."
Although social services investigated the Furlongs more than once, their findings were inconclusive. A social worker did suggest, however, that Furlong stop leaving loaded guns where the children could get to them.

Deanna began to arrange her schedule so that Furlong was never alone with the children.

Eleven-year-old Jacquie Luntsford is curled on her grandmother's lap, talking about life with her mother and Michael Furlong. "Sometimes he'd be so strict with my mom that I'd just have to go to my room and sit because I'd be too scared to go out," she says. "Like, at one point in time, at dinner, he raised his hand at my mom and threatened to slap her because she wouldn't pick up a few plates off the table."

Now Jacquie's voice starts to waver. "And my mom, my mom had bad eye vision, so that could have really messed her up." Jacquie hides her face against her grandmother's front; Darlene Kissell runs a hand over the child's shining hair.

Daniel Luntsford's sister, Michelle Kerr, remained close to Deanna even after Deanna's divorce from her brother. She and her husband, Wayne, saw enough at the Furlong household to concern them. "He was big into roughhousing," Wayne says of Michael. "He would punch her head. It wasn't done in a fit of rage, but Michael was fully aware of her eyes. And he did belittle her quite a bit. The constant bickering: 'You don't know how to cook. Shut up, Deanna. I'll take care of this.'"

"He was a bully," says Michelle flatly. "He was like a little kid--always hitting her, poking at her, sitting on her, pushing her. It would have hurt me. I know it did her. She was always ruffled really good by the time he got done. I know I've seen bruises on her arms from Michael roughhousing with her."

"She couldn't stand him at the end," says Terry Roberts. "She cringed. She said it made her sick being in the same room with him."

Like Linda Robson with her $99 move-in special, Deanna finally glimpsed the exhilarating possibility of escape. It came when she went on a rafting trip with some of the women from work, taking the family trailer--despite Furlong's warnings that she wouldn't be able to handle it. According to Roberts, Deanna drove the trailer competently. "After it was all over," Roberts remembers, "she said, 'Now I don't need him. I know I don't now. I can do it all on my own.'"

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