Thursday, May 27, 2010

Murder suspects have first court hearing

Attorney says murder victim’s wife will plead not guilty; victim’s sister says there was an affair,

Stephen Gurr
May 26, 2010

Stacey Schoeck was having an extramarital affair and may have wanted her husband killed for financial reasons, her sister-in-law said.

Carol Fillingim said she was told by detectives the alleged trigger man in her brother’s death was a boyfriend of Stacey Schoeck’s co-worker and had been paid to commit the murder.

Stacey Schoeck, 38, Reginald Coleman, 36, and Lynitra Ross, 30, made their first court appearances in front of a magistrate judge Wednesday on charges they plotted to kill Richard Schoeck of Snellville at Hall County’s Belton Bridge Park on Valentine’s Day.

Stacey Schoeck called 911 about 9 p.m. to report finding her 45-year-old husband lying on the ground next to his parked truck, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. She later told investigators she planned to meet her husband at the remote, unlit park on the banks of the Chattahoochee River after driving from her grandparents’ home outside Cleveland.

Hall County Sheriff’s officials have declined to discuss evidence or possible motives in the case.

During Wednesday’s brief court hearings, which were conducted via videoconference from the Hall County jail, the defendants were read the charges and asked if they had attorneys. Chief Hall County Magistrate Court Judge Margaret Gregory scheduled preliminary hearings in the case for next month.

A lawyer for Stacey Schoeck told the judge that his client intended to plead not guilty to the murder charge.

Attorney Max Hirsh on Wednesday filed a motion asking a superior court judge to set a bond for Stacey Schoeck. In the motion, Hirsh noted that his client is the sole caregiver for three children, ages 7, 11 and 17, and owns her own home in Snellville.

“The defendant has significant ties to the community. ... The defendant would pose no significant risk of committing a felony or intimidating witnesses if released,” Hirsh wrote in his motion for bond.

Hirsh declined to comment to reporters after Wednesday’s court hearing.

Fillingim said Stacey Schoeck told her the day after the killing that she was having an affair with a man who worked at Georgia Spinal and Neurosurgery Center in Decatur, where she worked as an administrator and where Ross was an office manager.

Fillingim said Stacey Schoeck called her to explain why she was questioned by detectives.

“She said, ‘Just to let you know, I cheated on your brother, and that’s why they had to keep me,’” Fillingim recalled.

The man who Schoeck was seeing has not been arrested, Fillingim said. Hall County Sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said he could not comment on whether Schoeck had a relationship with a man outside her marriage or if he had been interviewed by detectives.

Fillingim said Stacey Schoeck asked some of her husband’s family members to sign over to her a few small life insurance policies on Richard Schoeck after his death, but Fillingim refused.

Other financial factors may have played a role in the murder, Fillingim said.

“There’s some other things that were going on that I knew of through the detectives that made me think it may be money involved,” Fillingim said. She declined to elaborate.

The defendants remain jailed pending any bond hearings.

Just two days prior to her arrest, Stacey Schoeck sprinkled her late husband’s ashes from a hot air balloon in Gwinnett County.

Ballooning was one of Richard Schoeck’s many hobbies.

Among those attending the hot air balloon memorial last Sunday was Michael Carter of Snellville, a Scout master who knew the Schoecks through their involvement in the Boy Scouts of America. He described them as loving and family oriented.

“What I have seen of the couple, it just floors me that these charges have been brought,” Carter said Wednesday. “I’m just waiting to see what happens, and I hope the system works correctly.”

Fillingim said she wants Stacey Schoeck to answer for what happened to her brother.

“I probably basically know the answer,” she said. “I don’t know what Richard ever did to her, but I know what she did to him, and she will tell me why.”

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