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Prosecution: Ross benefited from Valentine's Day slaying
Evidence doesnt show she knew about killing, defense says
0516trial
Defendant Lynitra Ross listens today to opening statements in her trial at the Hall County Superior Court in Gainesville. Ross faces murder charges for her alleged role in the 2010 Valentine’s Day killing of Richard Schoeck - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Attorneys for Lynitra Ross will spend the next two weeks trying to convince a Hall County jury that the evidence state prosecutors have against her doesn’t warrant a murder conviction.

Hall County district attorneys are seeking a murder conviction against Ross of Austell for her alleged role in the death of Richard Schoeck of Snellville. Schoeck was found dead in Belton Bridge Park on Valentine’s Day 2010.

Police have accused Schoeck’s wife, Stacey, of hiring Reginald Coleman of Austell to kill him. Ross is accused of serving as the go-between.

In opening statements, Chief Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Burton told jurors the state has both financial and cellphone records to show that Ross benefited financially from Schoeck’s slaying.

Stacey Schoeck, she said, will also testify to Ross’ role in the plot to kill Richard Schoeck. In exchange for her testimony, prosecutors will not pursue the death penalty against Stacey Schoeck.

But Ross’ attorney, Rodney Williams, said the state’s evidence doesn’t show that Ross knew about the slaying. Ross, he said, thought Schoeck was hiring Coleman for a carjacking.

“The evidence is going to show you that Reggie and Stacey had ample time alone to plan this crime,” Williams told the jury.

Stacey Schoeck is expected to testify that she told Ross in January 2010 that she wanted to hire someone to kill her husband. According to statements Burton made in court Tuesday, Schoeck will also testify that Ross encouraged her to hire Coleman, saying “I know someone who can do that for you.”

Burton says the prosecution’s evidence will show that Ross “helped, advised, encouraged ... she hired, she counseled and she procured another.

“And she benefited,” Burton said. “That’s certainly sufficient for murder.”

Williams urged jurors in his opening statements not to believe what Schoeck says if it doesn’t line up with the state’s physical or documentary evidence.

“She’s the last person in this courtroom you should ever believe,” Williams said.

He questioned Schoeck’s credibility as the state’s “key witness,” calling her the “most despicable person in this entire case,” and said prosecutors, in their opening statements, left out the fact that Schoeck was having an affair at the time of her husband’s slaying.

Richard and Stacey Schoeck had planned to meet at Belton Bridge Park on the night of his killing to exchange valentines, Burton told the jury.

A Hall County investigator later testified that a valentine’s card for Stacey Schoeck’s lover, Juan Reyes, was found in her Ford Explorer three nights after Richard Schoeck’s death.

Reyes’ vehicle was never searched.

Williams encouraged jurors to consider Stacey Schoeck’s motive for agreeing to be the state’s witness, and said that even if evidence in the case creates “negative emotions” about Ross, “emotions cannot cover the lack of evidence in this case.”

This morning, prosecutors will continue to present their evidence in the trial, which is expected to last through next week.

Witnesses called Tuesday, largely employees of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, described the scene of the 2010 slaying and how they investigated it.

Much of the testimony is centered on tire tracks investigators found at Belton Bridge Park the night Richard Schoeck was killed.

“You’re going to hear a lot about tire tracks in this case,” Burton told the jury in opening statements.

Investigator Cameron Durham testified that tire treads at the park showed that a vehicle that wasn’t Stacey Schoeck’s came to the park before Richard Schoeck arrived to meet his wife.

Those same tire treads, which are alleged to have belonged to a 2009 Impala that Stacey Schoeck gave to Lynitra Ross, passed over the treads of Richard Schoeck’s Ford truck, according to testimony.

Investigators do not believe it was Ross driving the vehicle but Coleman.

Richard Schoeck was found on the ground next to his truck with three gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen and two to the face, Durham said.

An expert witness later testified that shell casings found near Richard Schoeck’s body came from a 9mm handgun.

Because money had been left in Richard Schoeck’s truck and he was still wearing a nice watch, investigators immediately ruled out a robbery, Durham said.

Prosecutors also showed pictures of prescription pill bottles of Oxycodone found in a search of Coleman’s home that came from the DeKalb County spine and neurosurgery clinic where both Stacey Schoeck and Lynitra Ross worked. One of the pill bottles, found next to Coleman’s Dodge Charger in his Austell garage, was filled with 9mm bullets.

Prescription pads from the DeKalb County clinic were found in both Coleman’s and Ross’ homes. But defense attorneys questioned the evidence Tuesday.

In his cross-examination of Durham, Williams asked if there was ever an allegation that Richard Schoeck was drugged or if the bottles were alleged to have been used in his death.

Durham answered no to the questions.

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