Family, police mourn death Valparaiso officers wear black bands on badges in memory of comrade who took his own life — (Post-Tribune)

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Indiana Post-Tribune

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Author: Frank Wiget, Post-Tribune staff writer

The day after veteran Valparaiso police officer Robert T. Furst was found lifeless in his home on Brown Street, police officers in the city were wearing black bands around their badges.

And family members were completing funeral arrangements.

Furst, 49, who just completed 20 years on the department, took his own life, Police Chief Walt Lamberson said.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at Bartholomew Funeral Home in Valparaiso. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home.

Sally Scarborough, Valparaiso Police Department administrative assistant, had regularly called officer Bob Furst at this home because he had difficulty waking up.

When she got no response Tuesday, officers went to the home for a well-being check and found the body.

Family members said Furst had sleeping problems and was diabetic.

On Monday morning, Furst submitted his letter of resignation and was waiting for verification if he had a full 20 years so he could qualify for a pension, Lamberson said.

The chief indicated Furst was to be notified Tuesday he had enough time for a 20-year pension. He had some prior suspensions with the days off not counting, Lamberson said.

After Furst was notified he was facing disciplinary action in connection with the Charles Schlesinger case, he turned in the resignation letter, the chief said.

Lamberson wouldn’t discuss specifics because of the death of Furst, but said the officer was facing “severe” departmental charges.

Furst reportedly failed to seek approval of a supervisor on May 10, 2002, before driving intoxicated off-duty officer Paul Kennedy home from the former BinWilly’s and allowing an intoxicated Sally Schlesinger, Charles Schlesinger’s wife, to ride along. He later brought her back to the bar; minutes later she and her husband Charles Schlesinger were in a two-car crash and he was on trial last week on five alcohol-related charges.

Schlesinger was found innocent of four of five charges, including two felonies, after a five-day trial.

Furst, a prosecution witness, was accused of lying on the stand by defense attorney Larry Rogers.

Jerry Furst said his brother Bob wouldn’t lie. And Bob Furst testified he was telling the truth.

Samantha Furst of Rensselaer said her uncle had a sleep disorder and was diabetic.

Like her father, Jerry Furst, she was shocked to learn her uncle had taken his life Monday night in his home in the 500 block of Brown Street in Valparaiso.

“Uncle Bob loved children and spent a lot time with us,” she said. “I was looking at a video from when I was 6 years old and we played Pretty Pretty Princess.”

“Uncle Bob was always there for us, my brother and I,” Samantha said, as her father was making funeral arrangements.

Porter County Coroner Roger Kleist didn’t order an autopsy, but did have blood samples submitted to a toxicology lab.

He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but his secretary Doris Amling said there was enough evidence at the scene pointing to suicide.

Valparaiso police said in their report they found three large packages of Effexor, an anti-depressant, and each had contained about 35 pills. All the packages were open and the pills missing, according to the report. Police also found an empty Jack Daniels whiskey bottle in the kitchen garbage, they said.

Survivors include his mother, Joyce Furst of Crown Point; three children: Karey Ann Swedersky of Michigan City, Robert W. Furst of Valparaiso and Terry Furst of Georgetown, Ill.; six grandchildren; a brother and three sisters: Jerry Furst of Rensselaer; Janis Matson of Crown Point, Lu Ann Gooden of Lafayette and Deborah Marcotte of Momence, Ill.

Reporter Frank Wiget can be reached at 477-6012 or fwiget@post-trib.com.