Apple TV+’s medical drama ‘Five Days at Memorial’ revolves around the discovery of 45 dead bodies in Memorial Medical Center after Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood. Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. assigns Arthur “Butch” Schafer, an Assistant Attorney General working in Louisiana’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, to investigate the deaths.
Schafer teams up with Special Agent Virginia Rider to investigate the deaths, which unravels the truth behind what really happened in the Memorial hospital building during and after the natural disaster. Since Schafer spearheads the investigation, the viewers must be eager to find out whether the character has a real-life counterpart. On that note, let us help you find the answer!
Is Arthur “Butch” Schafer Based on a Real Assistant Attorney General?
Yes, Arthur “Butch” Schafer is based on a real person who worked as an Assistant Attorney General at the time of Hurricane Katrina and the flood. When Schafer was assigned to investigate the Memorial deaths, he was mourning the death of his daughter Shelly with his wife, Linda. He joined Virginia Rider, a special agent who also worked with him in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, to investigate the allegations against Dr. Anna Pou, especially that she administered morphine when “it appeared that the patients could not be successfully evacuated,” as per Sheri Fink’s eponymous book, on which the show is based.
When Schafer and Rider failed to garner records concerning the deceased patients from Tenet — the company that owned Memorial — they drove to Memorial themselves, but they were not allowed to enter the hospital. Their investigation led them to multiple LifeCare employees, who revealed Dr. Anna Pou’s alleged involvement in the deaths of the LifeCare patients. Then Schafer had to collect physical evidence to move forward with the case. A search team was formed, and Schafer and Virginia searched Memorial after obtaining a warrant.
After the search, Schafer and Rider also interviewed the families of three deceased LifeCare patients. Meanwhile, Schafer also came to know that morphine was detected in the dead bodies of nine LifeCare patients. He had to work tirelessly to gather evidence in the case. Initially, it was difficult for him and Virginia to find more information about the nurses who were with Pou. At the same time, he also had developed “Katrina cough,” possibly because of his searches in Memorial without masks. He also lost his father-in-law while the investigation was progressing.
Schafer dealt with these challenges and eventually prepared enough documents, including toxicology reports, medical records, and autopsy reports, to move forward with the murder case of four LifeCare patients. In July 2006, Dr. Anna Pou and Memorial nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo were arrested and charged with four counts of being a principal in a second-degree murder. The affidavit Virginia prepared prior to the arrests included information she and Schafer gathered by interviewing four LifeCare employees named Diane Robichaux, Therese Mendez, Kristy Johnson, and Steven Harris.
Where is Arthur “Butch” Schafer Today?
After the arrest of Dr. Anna Pou, a grand jury was sworn in to consider her case, and Schafer summarized the case to the jurors as the lead prosecutor. The grand jury, however, did not indict Pou. As per Sheri Fink’s book, Schafer “did not believe justice had reached its end in the case.” “He [Schafer] knew what had really happened at Memorial. Whether anyone else knew it was not his concern. As a prosecutor, you learned that many of the people you brought to trial wouldn’t be found guilty. You couldn’t spend your life sulking about it,” Fink wrote about Schafer in her book.
Schafer is currently working as a lawyer in the city of Lafayette in southern Louisiana, where he seemingly also lives with his wife, Linda Schafer. He is no longer an Assistant Attorney General. Years after the Memorial case, Schafer had to get treated for a possible lung infection and he eventually got recovered from the same.
Schafer considers his involvement with the show a “big opportunity” for him. However, he is not keen on revisiting or reliving the days associated with the Memorial case. “I think going back, if I had to go back and relive everything we did, it probably would be painful. One, because I remember the effort and everything we put into that. But then again it would just be hard,” Shafer told KLFY.