It was an outcome with which no one was entirely pleased.
On July 30, Boulder judge Frank Dubofsky sentenced Michael Furlong to twenty years' probation for criminally negligent homicide in the January death of his wife, Deanna ("Dead Reckoning," July 15). As part of his probation, Furlong will serve two years on work release in Boulder County Jail. Over the next twenty years, he will be given counseling, forbidden to own weapons and periodically tested for drugs. If he violates probation, he could be sent to prison for up to three years. The sentence was arrived at as part of a plea bargain with the Boulder District Attorney's Office.
"I am sorry to Deanna's family and my family for putting them all through it," Furlong said before the sentencing, crying. "I know we all miss Deanna. I have to look at Jessica (the couple's four-year-old daughter) every day and figure out how to raise her without a mother..."
On the day of her death, Deanna Furlong had been trying to persuade Michael to sign divorce papers; according to Michael's statement to police, he was holding her and begging her to change her mind when she jerked away and fell down the stairs.
Before pronouncing the sentence, Dubofsky seemed troubled, wondering aloud whether Furlong should have faced more serious charges. He had already postponed sentencing once because a probation officer said Furlong should go to trial. "The defendant was very persistent and aggressive in not allowing a divorce to go forward," Dubofsky said. "He was...simply not going to let go and let this woman have her legal right."
There were indications of a serious physical struggle between the Furlongs, Dubofsky continued. Michael had chased Deanna around the kitchen table; there were scrape marks on her body; two fingernails were broken. Dubofsky reminded the court that shortly before her death, Deanna had confided to a friend that her husband had threatened her life.
Then there was Furlong's mistreatment of Deanna's two children by a previous marriage, said Dubofsky, as well as the fact that Furlong had cocaine in his system when he was arrested. "There is a women's issue involved here," he continued. Women have a "right to get a divorce" and "not be tied down and held down." He cited the probation officer's impression that Furlong was unrepentant.
Prosecutor Trip DeMuth explained that the evidence was insufficient for a stronger charge or to take the case to trial. He said that the only evidence for a "vigorous" fight at the head of the stairs came from a police officer's misstatement and that coroner John Meyer had said there was no evidence that Deanna had been hit or beaten.
"I have not stated there was a slugging," Dubofsky responded, but "Meyer said other marks on decedent's body were not inconsistent with a struggle."
DeMuth continued to defend the plea bargain, saying that had the prosecution gone to court and won, Furlong would have been sentenced to only three years in prison; he would have been released after eighteen months. The probation agreement means he will be under the court's supervision far longer.
Furlong is also being investigated in the death of Linda Robson, with whom he lived in Fountain thirteen years ago and whose decomposed body was found in a garbage dump in May 1987. Robson's murder was never solved.
Jessica Furlong is living with Michael's family in Colorado Springs. Deanna's parents and her two children from a previous marriage (now living with their natural father, Daniel Luntsford) have not been allowed to see the little girl since February.
"This is a settlement, plain and simple," said Peter Schild, Furlong's lawyer, summing up. "Nobody's going to be particularly happy with it, and yet it works."
After the sentencing, Deanna's friends and family clustered outside the courtroom. "Finally, there are consequences for the hell he put her through," said Megan Hammer, Deanna's best friend, weeping. Jack Kisell, Deanna's father, was asked how he felt about the sentence. He struggled briefly for words. Then he shrugged. "Maybe I can get some sleep now," he said quietly.