Texas man guilty of murdering grandmother in East Dundee in 2014
A Kane County jury deliberated about five hours Tuesday before finding a Texas man guilty of driving across the country and murdering his grandmother in East Dundee for a share of her estate in July 2014.
Richard Schmelzer, 44, of Frisco, a Dallas suburb, faces between 20 and 60 years in prison when sentenced by Judge Linda Abrahamson next year for killing Mildred "Dodie" Darrington, 85, of East Dundee.
In a two-week trial, Kane County prosecutors argued Schmelzer, a married father of four who was deep in debt, drove across the Midwest to kill Darrington in her own bed. Schmelzer stood to inherit at least $300,000, and he was nearly $162,000 behind on his mortgage and seeing multiple women, including a $450-per-hour escort, prosecutors argued.
Schmelzer showed no visible emotion when the verdict was read but shook his head back and forth after the jury was polled. Darrington's daughter, Angela Schmelzer, and her daughter Kim Schmelzer held hands and breathed a deep sigh after the verdict was read.
"Thank you," Kim Schmelzer said outside the courtroom as she hugged South Elgin Detective Brian Polkinghorn, who investigated the case as a member of the Kane County Major Crimes Task Force.
Kim Schmelzer said there are no victors in the case despite the conviction of her brother.
"There is no win -- guilty or not guilty," Kim Schmelzer said afterward. "Our family is still hurting and suffering."
East Dundee Police Chief Terry Mee, who attended a majority of trial, credited the various law enforcement agencies that worked together to build the case against Richard Schmelzer. Mee said William Engerman, the lead prosecutor, and his team did a "brilliant" job.
"Without his work, the jury would not have had a clear picture of a crime that was deliberately planned," Mee said.
During the trial, prosecutors used records from a "go phone" that Schmelzer bought, along with gas purchases from an American Express gift card, to show how Schmelzer drove across the Midwest in a car rented by Schmelzer's cousin. Prosecutors also detailed Schmelzer's history of reckless spending that Darrington would help him pay for, along with visits to escorts.
Schmelzer also had a key to Darrington's home, and when her body was found the morning of July 18, 2014, after she failed to show up for a hair appointment, authorities noted no signs of struggle nor forced entry, and didn't learn of anything being stolen despite jewelry and more than $2,500 cash in her home.
Defense attorney Joshua Dieden argued the state's case was circumstantial, police rushed to judgment and none of Schmelzer's DNA or fingerprints were found at the scene.
Mee acknowledged that East Dundee residents may have been on edge after Darrington's murder while authorities investigated Schmelzer.
"There was no immediate danger to the community," Mee said. "There were some difficult times for our residents because they would like to know everything and you can't tell them everything."
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon also credited investigators and prosecutors.
"(Schmelzer's) deceit is astonishing, and it was done because he was so overcome with greed," McMahon said. "Quite frankly, it's still hard to fathom -- this man killed his own grandmother to further a lifestyle of gluttony that he couldn't otherwise pay for."