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.

By late 1998, Deanna was convinced that divorce was her only option. As the couple's divorce discussions proceeded, Deanna's friends became more and more afraid for her. Deanna had told Hammer more than once that Furlong had threatened to kill her before he would give her a divorce. "I can't tell you how many times we'd leave work on Friday, and I'd be scared to death I'd never see her alive again," says Hammer. Her fears were so high that she worked out a system for checking on her friend's well-being. She'd phone, ostensibly to discuss a recipe. If Deanna's conversation remained culinary, Hammer would know Furlong was listening. Otherwise, the women could talk frankly.

But Hammer maintains that Deanna herself was not afraid. "She indulged me in this," Hammer says. "To soothe my fears. After her death, the police really wanted me to tell them that she was terrified for her life. I would have loved to have lied. I wanted to desperately. But I couldn't. It's true he had threatened to kill her. But was she terrified for her life? No."

Puzzling over what they themselves might have failed to see or do, friends and co-workers try to explain Deanna's apparent invulnerability to fear.

"She had finally got her feet back under her after Danny, and she had had such a tough time that no man was ever going to pose that type of fear for her again," speculates Sandy Schara. "If you go through the guilt, the agony of losing a marriage, rebuilding your self-esteem can be even more traumatic. You convince yourself you're there so you won't backslide."

"She had almost a walk-through-life Teflon coating," says Hammer. "It's like, bad things happen, but they don't."

"I once asked her why she put up with the way he belittled her," says Darlene. "She said, 'Oh, I guess I just let it go in one ear and out the other.'"

"That's how she taught me and Andy to deal with it," echoes Jacquie, still holding her grandmother.

"It was because of her caring," says Roberts. "She was naive with her caring. All of us kind of suspected him to go wacko, but she didn't want to see it. She was in her own little world of protection. She wanted to protect everybody's feelings."

But Deanna was more forthright with her onetime sister-in-law. Because of the couple's problems, Michael had agreed to spend Christmas with Jessica and his parents in Colorado Springs. But instead, he returned home. This made Deanna noticeably tense, Kerr says, and Deanna confided that she had become afraid of Michael. She was particularly afraid that he would find a way to take Jessica away from her.

At noon on January 5, Deanna and Michael Furlong visited a marriage counselor. Deanna made it clear she was not seeking reconciliation but wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible for her husband. Then she left.

The counselor commented that there was nothing more to be done. "I have to do it myself, then," Michael Furlong said.

Deanna went to her parents' house for lunch. "She told us what her intentions were, to get him to sign the papers," her father remembers. "So that the sheriff wouldn't have to serve them to him at work the next day. She was going to try to save him the embarrassment."

After Jack and Darlene promised to take care of the children that evening, Deanna returned to work. Once there, according to Sandy Schara, she called the counselor and asked for an opinion on Furlong's state of mind. "The counselor said, 'I cannot read the man. I don't know if he's suicidal. I know he's depressed.' She shared that with us," says Schara.

In the middle of the afternoon, Jacquie called her mother. She said Furlong was at the house, begging her and Andy to help him change Deanna's mind. "He was on his knees telling us he loved us and he didn't want to lose us," Andy says. "It was so extreme it was almost funny."

Deanna promised Jacquie she'd be right home. "I said, 'Please don't go over there,'" Schara recalls. "The weather's beautiful. Call the kids back; have them walk over here. You don't know what kind of shape he's in. Please don't go over there.

"'I'm fine,'" Schara says Deanna told her. "I mean, she was absolutely adamant."

Deanna picked up Andy and Jacquie and took them to her parents' house. Then she returned to the modest home she and Michael shared in a quiet Longmont cul de sac.

Only Michael Furlong knows exactly what happened next. He told police that he and Deanna had been arguing at the kitchen table and that she'd stood up and moved away so that he was "almost chasing her around the table." Then she went to the top of the basement stairs and started putting laundry in a basket. Furlong told police he was "hugging her from the side," trying to get her to look at him. They were both seated next to the laundry basket, he said.

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