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A year later, Valentines slaying leaves wounded hearts
Victim's wife, 2 others await trial in alleged murder-for-hire plot at Belton Bridge Park
0213SCHOECK.lynitra ross
Lynitra Ross

Valentine's Day is dedicated to love, or should be.

That's what Carol Fillingim believed until her brother Richard Schoeck was gunned down in a remote North Hall park Feb. 14, 2010. Now she mourns.

"If it was just any other normal day (the pain) would still be there, but it wouldn't be as much as a remembrance," Fillingim said. "Because everyone celebrates Valentine's Day."

Her family's hearts remain broken a year after Schoeck's death, one described in court documents as the result of a murder-for-hire plot initiated by his wife of nearly two years, Stacey Schoeck.

The Snellville woman, her former employee Lynitra Ross, and Reginald Coleman, a personal trainer, were indicted last June on malice murder charges.

Each of them is being held in Hall County Jail where they await separate trials for their roles in the killing, which differed considerably, authorities have said.

Court documents state that Stacey Schoeck, who was having an affair, conceived the attack; Coleman, a convicted felon, was the triggerman; and Ross, who was supervised by Stacey Schoeck at a DeKalb County spinal clinic, acted as their go-between.

The motive may have been financial, an investigator said in his search warrant requests, since Stacey Schoeck had pending life insurance claims totaling $560,000. One of the policies activated that Feb. 1, deputies stated.

"Stacey Schoeck is the sole beneficiary on these policies," wrote Capt. Woodrow Tripp in concluding his sworn affidavit requesting the searches.

Filings in the Hall County Courthouse give some insight on how each case is progressing, with one being tried as capital case.

Prosecutors notified Coleman in November that state would seek the death penalty. His first formal proceeding, an initial step in capital cases, was held Feb. 4 before Judge Jason Deal, who was randomly selected to hear the case. Coleman's lawyer, Christian Lamar, was unavailable for comment.

District Attorney Lee Darragh acknowledged his leadership role in trying Coleman, who was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

But Darragh declined to comment otherwise on the cases, including the prosecution of Stacey Schoeck.

"Stacey is looking forward to a just and speedy result," said Schoeck's lawyer, Max Hirsh of Atlanta, acknowledging the case's status as being in the prearraignment phase. "Until it's over, that's all that is fair to say."

On Ross's behalf, her attorney, Rodney Williams, filed a motion to move her trial to another county.

The tentative trial date is August. He blamed pretrial publicity as having "saturated the Hall County community," according to court documents.

"We're dealing with very serious charges," Williams said recently. "I've tried cases in Hall before and believe they are fair juries, reasonable juries. But we want to make sure when the stakes are high like this that we're doing everything we can to protect Lynitra's interest."

Williams also briefly questioned state's argument against Ross.

"She was not the specific perpetrator of the crime, nor was she the person who conceived of the plan to murder, according to the state," Williams said. "I think that's important flush out. What is Lynitra's role in this case, if she played any role at all?"

Technological analysis of cell phone records and tower activity, including the one nearest to the Belton Bridge Park crime scene, is what led deputies to Coleman and Ross, both residents of Austell, investigators have stated. All the defendants' locations and communications with one another were documented before and possibly after the crime between 8:40 p.m. and 9 p.m., court records detail.

When Stacey Schoeck called 911 around 9 p.m., she reported finding her husband laying outside his truck. He'd been shot three times in the midsection and twice in the face.

She said the couple planned to meet there to exchange Valentine's Day cards after sharing dinner at her grandparents' home in Cleveland, where Schoeck had been staying since Feb. 12, she told deputies during an interview.

Fillingim believed her story.

Richard Schoeck's sister described her family as being in "shock" after the arrest and indictment of his wife, in particular.

"I cannot fathom anything that would make you capable of killing your spouse instead of just walking away," Fillingim said. "What I'd like to know is what Richard knew. If it was just as much of a shock to him."

Fillingim sensed there was marital trouble. Since his death, she has thought often about conversations with her 45-year-old brother. They coordinated care of their late father as well as looked after their mother, Marion.

He had visited his mom on Valentine's Day and told her he planned to meet his wife in Cleveland.

Fillingim, who had just missed him at her mother's home, counted on visiting with him later.

"That replays in my mind, that I didn't get to see him another time," Fillingim said.

Justice is what she hopes to see now.

"It's a waiting game," she added. "All I know is they're all in jail and that's where they will stay until this is resolved."