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Sunday, April 8
Updated: April 10, 2:59 PM ET
Widow fears web site will publish photos
Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Dale Earnhardt's wife appealed again to keep her husband's autopsy photos private, fearing they will wind up on the Internet for everyone to see.

"I want to let the NASCAR community and the people of Florida know just how much pain this ordeal is causing my family," Teresa Earnhardt said in a statement released at Martinsville Speedway, site of Sunday's race.

Earnhardt was killed Feb. 18 when he crashed during the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500. Several newspapers and a Web site have sought access to the autopsy photos, saying they wanted a medical expert to review them.

At the time of the crash, autopsy photos were considered public record in Florida, but Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed a measure late last month making it a felony for a medical examiner to make the photos public.

Earnhardt thanked Florida lawmakers for their "sensible approach" to privacy, but she remains frustrated by what has happened.

"Each day we are faced with new threats that these photos will end up on the Internet," she said. "We just want it to end. No one should be subjected to the kind of harassment and torment to which we are by the media."

NASCAR president Mike Helton said he was disappointed by efforts by news organization to gain access to the photos. He referred questions about Sunday's statement to Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

"Throughout this whole ordeal, we've been very supportive of Teresa and her efforts, particularly as they relate to the issues and challenges that she's got in Florida," Helton said at the speedway.

DEI spokesman Ty Norris, speaking at the infield media center, said Teresa Earnhardt is seeking the media's help because "it seems to continue on even when we felt it was behind us."

"She comes to the motorsports media because you guys understand what the Earnhardt family is wanting, what they're looking for," he said.

Norris said Earnhardt and DEI have taken issue only with The Orlando Sentinel and its sister paper, the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Independent Florida Alligator newspaper at the university of Florida and Michael Uribe of DeLand, Fla., operator of the Web site also involved in efforts to gain access to the photos.

Norris declined to take questions.

The Sentinel released a statement Sunday.

"The actions by the Independent Florida Alligator and Mr. Michael Uribe are independent and totally separate from the binding agreement between the Orlando Sentinel and Mrs. Earnhardt," the Sentinel said. "As stated many times, the Orlando Sentinel has absolutely no intention of publishing the autopsy photos. In addition, the newspaper does not condone the publication of Mr. Earnhardt's autopsy photos in any form whatsoever."

Trey Csar, managing editor of the Independent Florida Alligator, also commented on the issue Sunday.

"We do understand that she is continuing to mourn the loss of her husband," Csar said. "At the same time, I think she's ignoring the fact that this is a vitally important lawsuit for a number of reasons."

Teresa Earnhardt had believed a compromise reached last month with the Sentinel would put to rest any claims by the public to view the photos. But all three newspapers and the Web site are challenging the constitutionality of the new law restricting such access.

A judge in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Thursday ruled the challenge to the law is valid. A hearing will be held this month.

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