Stacey Schoeck, accused of hiring a hit man to kill her husband on Valentine’s Day 2010, pleaded guilty this morning to murder malice with forethought and was sentenced to life without parole.
"Judge (Jason) Deal appropriately recognized that Stacey Schoeck was the engine that put this train in motion, until the death of her husband," District Attorney Lee Darragh said. "Without her involvement, this would not have occurred."
Schoeck said through her attorney Max Hirsh that "she is relieved that justice has been done for Richard."
Richard Schoeck of Snellville was shot to death the night of Feb. 14, 2010, at Belton Bridge Park in North Hall.
Triggerman Reginald Coleman pleaded guilty last month to malice murder and was sentenced to life without parole for his role in the case. Lynitra Ross was sentenced to life without parole in August for acting as the "go-between" for Schoeck and Coleman.
It was an emotional sentencing, with both written and in-person testimony from co-workers, friends and family of Richard Schoeck.
Victim impact statements painted a portrait of a man who avidly flew hot-air balloons and was a beloved friend, uncle and stepfather.
"We have all felt emptiness in our lives not having Richard around," one of his former co-workers said.
Many people who testified choked back tears as they spoke of his good nature and of crushing bitterness for the woman who orchestrated his demise.
But the emotions of friends and family of Richard Schoeck were hardly perceptible when Stacey Schoeck took the stand and accepted total responsibility for her crimes.
"I said, ‘I’m going to be the judge, the jury and the executioner.’ And that’s what I did. And that’s disgustingly awful," Schoeck said.
She pleaded for mercy in her sentencing.
"Someone told me the definition of mercy is getting what you don’t deserve," Schoeck said.
Her mother, Rena Morgan, read testimony from Schoeck’s two younger sons, who Richard Schoeck had adopted.
"I miss her every hour of every day, just like Daddy Richard," her 10-year-old son Kevin wrote.
Schoeck testified that it was the belief that her husband had molested her 14-year-old son Keith that led her to conspire to murder him, an allegation that was never proven.
The defense had the task of convincing Judge Deal that a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years would be the more appropriate, merciful punishment.
They asked Deal to consider mitigating factors, namely Schoeck’s alleged past childhood sexual abuse, which she disclosed to a forensic therapist during imprisonment.
The defense also asked Deal to consider Schoeck’s positive interaction with other female inmates, and her cooperation with the district attorney.
Prosecutors agreed to not pursue the death penalty for Schoeck’s cooperation and testimony in the Ross trial.
In the end, Schoeck’s sentence matched that of her accomplices.
While Deal said he "had no doubt" that Schoeck was molested as a child, he emphasized the sordidly premeditated nature of the crime when handing down his sentence.
"This wasn’t a spur of moment, heat of the moment crime. It was very, very premeditated," he said.
Her attorney asked that Deal note in the sentence that Schoeck not be in the same prison as Ross, who Schoeck testified against in May.
Making such an accommodation could be tricky with limited resources to hold female prisoners, Deal noted, and suggested that both attorneys and himself sign a letter making the request.