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Text of Teresa Earnhardt's Statement


March 4, 2001
Teresa Earnhardt makes plea to public
By MIKE HARRIS Ap Motorsports Writer

LAS VEGAS -- The widow of racing great Dale Earnhardt pleaded for public support Sunday in helping the family keep the driver's autopsy private.

"This is the first time I've spoken in public since we've lost Dale," Teresa Earnhardt said, reading from a statement. "Honestly, I'm not very comfortable being here. It's too soon. But this issue is of vital importance -- not just to my family -- but to anyone ever faced with being exploited after losing a loved one."


Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Las Vegas Motor Speedway media center

Earnhardt died instantly of head injuries on Feb. 18 in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500.

His wife sued Volusia County in Florida on Feb. 22 to stop release of its medical examiner's autopsy photos taken after the fatal wreck. The next day, an Orlando Sentinel reporter made a public records request asking for "any and all photographs" of Earnhardt.

Judge Joseph Will issued a temporary injunction. He said the photos have no "bona fide newsworthiness" and could cause the family "additional anguish and grief."

Under Florida's public records law, autopsy reports and photographs are public record unless they are part of an active criminal investigation.

A hearing on whether to make the injunction permanent was originally set for last Thursday but was postponed for one week because of a scheduling conflict.

Teresa Earnhardt pleaded at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for anyone "who feels strongly as we do, to let your voices be heard."

She requested that the public contact the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, the president of the Florida Senate and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, asking them to "protect the privacy of citizens by preventing publication of autopsy photos."

Mrs. Earnhardt sat alongside a solemn Dale Earnhardt Jr. while quietly reading her statement. She left without answering questions. Her only previous public appearance since her husband's death came on Feb. 22 in Charlotte, N.C., at an invitation-only memorial service.

Tim Franklin, a Sentinel editor, said in an article Sunday the newspaper wanted the photos so a head trauma expert could make an independent determination of the cause of death.

Sentinel attorney David Bralow has said the newspaper has no desire to cause Teresa Earnhardt more pain. The Sentinel's editors have said they have no intention of publishing the photos.

However, "if these photos will help elucidate the nature of what exactly went wrong or what happened to Dale Earnhardt, then the public is served," Bralow said.

NASCAR has hired a consultant and is investigating the death. A broken left lap belt was found on the floor of the battered Chevrolet after the accident and could have been responsible for Earnhardt's death.

Teresa Earnhardt said the request by the Sentinel for the autopsy photos added to the family's trauma.

"In fact, I have not even had time to caringly unpack Dale's suitcase from Daytona, let alone have time to grieve for him," she said. "The main reason is because we have been caught up in an unexpected whirlwind as a result of efforts to gain access to the autopsy photographs of Dale.

"We can't believe and are saddened that anyone would invade our privacy during this time of grief. I want to let you know that if access to the photos is allowed, others will demand them, too. And make no mistake, sooner or later the photos will end up unprotected and published ... and most certainly on the Internet."

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Blk3GM's Dale Earnhardt Site was born on July 26, 1998 and is owned and maintained by Gary Harris.  This site is a tribute to "NASCAR's Greatest Driver" and his up and coming son.  We are not affiliated with any official Team, Sponsors, Media Group or NASCAR.  This site is solely for entertainment purposes.  Information and statistic's on this site have been collected from various NASCAR related sites on the internet, from Winston Cup Scene, Newspapers, Television and our personal experience at Winston Cup and Busch Grand National races.  All statistics are believed to be accurate at the time they are updated but cannot be guaranteed.
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