Witness: East Dundee murder suspect used fake name for phone

  • Richard Schmelzer, right, is charged with the July 2014 murder of his grandmother, Mildred "Dodie" Darrington, 85, of East Dundee. His trial is expected to last two weeks.

      Richard Schmelzer, right, is charged with the July 2014 murder of his grandmother, Mildred "Dodie" Darrington, 85, of East Dundee. His trial is expected to last two weeks. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Updated 12/9/2016 4:32 PM

A Texas man accused of driving to East Dundee in July 2014 to kill his 85-year-old grandmother for her inheritance bought a prepaid cellphone under the name of "Joe Smith" days before Mildred "Dodie" Darrington was found stabbed to death in her home, a cellphone sales woman testified Friday.

Randi Lieske, a sales associate at a Frisco, Texas, AT&T store, said Richard Schmelzer wanted a "cheap and untraceable" phone with 1 gigabyte of prepaid data because "he was going cross-country and needed it for GPS."


Kane County prosecutors say the pings off cellphone towers and a trail of gas purchases on an American Express gift card show Schmelzer, 44, drove through several states en route to killing Darrington, whose body was found July 18, 2014, after she failed to show up for her weekly hair appointment.

Schmelzer and a few other people had keys to Darrington's home, and there were no signs of forced entry; valuables such as her jewelry and $2,400 in cash were untouched, prosecutors said.

They argue Schmelzer's home was in foreclosure, he was cheating on his wife with two prostitutes, and sought his share of Darrington's $800,000 estate.

Defense attorney Joshua Dieden contends the case against his client is purely circumstantial, with no direct evidence such as Schmelzer's DNA at the crime scene.

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Darrington's daughter, Angela Schmelzer, testified earlier that her son, Richard, had borrowed money on many occasions from her for home renovations and to pay off credit card debt.

Richard asked Angela Schmelzer at one point for a $200,000 loan to start a business.

"He was giving us the opportunity to make money instead of the bank," testified Angela Schmelzer, who refused the loan.

She also testified that Richard Schmelzer's tone was "normal" after learning of Darrington's death and he seemed more determined to divvy up her estate with financial planners before her funeral had even been held.

Richard Schmelzer's sister, Kim, also testified Friday that Richard had her wire money three times to two women in Las Vegas and claimed he was just helping a former student.


Kim Schmelzer testified that her brother asked her not to tell his wife about the money transfers and that he had inquired as to how Darrington's inheritance would be distributed if he were divorced.

Schmelzer has been held at the Kane County jail on $5 million bail since his arrest in September 2014. If convicted, he faces a prison term of 20 to 60 years with no chance of early release.

The trial resumes Monday and is expected to run through the end of the week.

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