Saying she never appeared remorseful for her role in the 2010 murder of Richard Schoeck, Superior Court Judge Jason Deal didn’t give Lynitra Ross a chance at parole Thursday.
Ross, of Austell, was accused of serving as the “go-between” in a plot to kill Schoeck at Belton Bridge Park in Lula on Valentine’s Day 2010.
A jury convicted her May 22.
Ross, 32, returned to court Thursday, her lawyers pleading that her life sentence should come with a possibility of parole.
Prosecutors and members of Richard Schoeck’s family argued for harsher punishment.
Schoeck, of Snellville, was shot to death on Feb. 14, 2010, as he waited for his wife at the park in Lula well after dark to exchange Valentine’s gifts.
He was 45.
Prosecutors have said his wife, Stacey Schoeck, with Ross’ help, hired alleged professional hit man Reginald Coleman to do the job.
Coleman, of Austell, allegedly received $10,000 for pulling the trigger.
Testifying for the prosecution in Ross’ trial earlier this summer, Stacey Schoeck has admitted as much, saying she mistakenly believed her husband was molesting her children.
She and Coleman have also been charged in Schoeck’s death.
But family members and friends whose letters were read in court Thursday focused on the role Ross played.
After introducing Stacey Schoeck and Reginald Coleman, Ross tagged along for what prosecutors called a “dry run” to Belton Bridge Park to scout out the location of Richard Schoeck’s murder.
For her role, Ross received payment in the form of a house and a car.
Richard Schoeck’s sister, Carol Fillingim, read the letters for more than an hour in court Thursday. Each portrayed Richard Schoeck as a fun-loving, artistic man who cared for the youth around him and for his elder family members in their times of need.
“We all could not believe that someone would intentionally hurt a guy like him,” one former co-worker wrote.
And they asked that Ross never have a chance at parole, because though she had an opportunity to prevent Richard Schoeck’s death, she never seized it.
“She has no respect for human life and no sense of guilt for her actions,” one friend wrote.
Many of Schoeck’s friends and family members said Ross played a “crucial role” in Schoeck’s death.
“As far as I’m concerned, she may not have pulled the trigger, but she might as well have loaded the gun,” Nicole Fillingim, the daughter of Carol Fillingim, wrote.
Another friend called the conspiracy to kill Richard Schoeck “the worst kind of evil.”
“Time will never replace the man and the impact that he had all around him,” one man, who led a scout troup with Richard Schoeck, wrote to the court.
Along with a letter to the court, Fillingim also wrote a letter to Ross, which she read last Thursday.
“If you had had a conscience at all you could and should have stopped Richard’s murder,” Fillingim said.
But Ross’ mother, who also testified in court Thursday, painted a picture of a daughter who took on two jobs to help her single mother pay the bills. Ross, her mother said, would also help take care of her little brothers as well as friends in school who needed a temporary place to stay.
And as a mother herself, Ross took care of her now 5-year-old son.
“She’s a wonderful girl,” Ross’ mother said.
Prosecutor Allison Toller called Richard Schoeck’s murder “one of the most cold-blooded and calculated murders that we’ve seen.”
“This case comes down solely to greed,” she said.
Ross’ attorney Rodney Williams argued for the lesser sentence Thursday, saying district attorneys originally offered Ross a 20-year sentence. Ross, Williams said, turned down the offer, because it meant she would have to testify against Coleman, who is the father of her 5-year-old son.
“The deal was simply not to take 20 years,” Williams said. “The deal was also you have to send your baby’s father to death. ... It’s one thing to accept responsibility, but it was beyond her to testify against the father of her child in a death penalty case.”
He said Ross’ participation with district attorneys had directly caused Stacey Schoeck to decide to plead guilty. It was a point prosecutors denied, saying even when Ross began to speak to investigators, she downplayed her role.
Deal said his decision was not based on what type of person Richard Schoeck had been in his life.
“It’s wrong to kill anybody,” he said. “It’s wrong to kill a bad person. It’s wrong to kill a good person.”
But he said the fact that Ross helped plan and “calculate” Richard Schoeck’s death, even though she knew him to be a good person who would not molest his children, “certainly adds to the heinousness of the crime.”
And the fact that Deal never saw Ross seem like she felt sorry for what she did made it hard to give her a chance at parole.
“I’ve observed no remorse, no remorse, throughout any of the proceedings,” Deal said.
With the sentence, Ross has few options other than to request a new trial.
Prosecutors now look to her two co-defendants.
District Attorney Lee Darragh has said his office will seek the death penalty against Coleman, 38; he is likely to face trial late this year.
Stacey Schoeck, 40, has said she will plead guilty to the charges she faces. Because she testified as to Ross’ role, prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty against Stacey Schoeck.