Jury to deliberate 2014 East Dundee murder case beginning Tuesday
A Kane County jury on Tuesday will begin deliberations in the case of a Texas man accused of driving to East Dundee in July 2014 to kill his grandmother for a share of her inheritance.
Over the course of a two-week trial, prosecutors argued that Richard Schmelzer, 44, of Frisco, a suburb of Dallas, planned a secret mission while his family was on vacation and fatally stabbed Mildred "Dodie" Darrington, 85, while she slept in her own bed.
Attorneys from both sides offered closing arguments Monday; after about 30 minutes, Judge Linda Abrahamson told jurors to come back Tuesday to resume deliberations.
Prosecutors argue Schmelzer was deep in debt, was about to be cut off from his grandmother's financial assistance and stood to inherit about $300,000 from her estate that Schmelzer and his sister were named as beneficiaries.
Schmelzer had a key to the home, there were no signs of forced entry, no knickknacks were knocked over and nothing else was stolen even though Darrington had jewelry and at least $2,500 in the home and in plain view.
"He was on a mission and had one purpose, and that was to kill Dodie Darrington because it had one big payout at the end," Assistant State's Attorney Lori Schmidt told jurors of the 14-hour, 924-mile trip Schmelzer made to Illinois and back to Texas.
Defense attorney Joshua Dieden argued the case was highly circumstantial, with no direct evidence such as DNA or fingerprints putting Schmelzer at the scene. He argued authorities rushed to judgment and failed to thoroughly test the crime scene -- such as testing under Darrington's fingernails for DNA.
"It was a sloppy investigation and (prosecutors) want you to fill in the gaps for them," Dieden told jurors. "They could have allayed reasonable doubt by doing their job."
Darrington's body was found the morning of July 18, 2014, after she failed to show up for a hair appointment.
Police interviewed Schmelzer the next week after her funeral and became suspicious after he volunteered a dinner receipt from July 17 in Dallas that showed it was paid for via credit card when earlier in the interview he boasted about paying for everything in cash.
Authorities eventually learned he had been seeing multiple women, including a $450-per-hour escort, and was nearly $162,000 behind on his mortgage.
Prosecutors presented records showing Schmelzer bought a "go phone" under a fake name that he thought was untraceable and drove a car rented by his cousin to East Dundee. Along the way, he made numerous calls and purchases at gas stations that prosecutors plotted out on a map, offering a timeline for jurors to see.
"This evidence, this line, this is not a coincidence," argued William Engerman, the lead prosecutor in the case, adding Schmelzer wore gloves and wrapped the murder weapon in a pillowcase taken from the home. "This is the execution of a plan to go and kill his grandmother."
If convicted of first-degree murder, Schmelzer faces between 20 and 60 years in prison without chance of early release.