Lynitra Ross knew that she was helping to plan Richard Schoeck’s murder, Stacey Schoeck told a courtroom Thursday.
Stacey Schoeck spent some seven hours on the stand in Hall County Superior Court on Thursday as the state’s key witness in Ross’ trial.
Ross is charged with malice murder, accused of helping Stacey Schoeck hire a hit man — alleged to be Ross’ on-again-off-again boyfriend Reginald Coleman — to kill Richard Schoeck in 2010.
Stacey Schoeck said Thursday she will plead guilty to the charges against her. The case against Coleman is a capital one, and is still tied up in a number of pretrial motions associated with death penalty cases.
Schoeck, too, would have faced the death penalty were it not for her testimony that Ross knew of the murder plot.
Wearing a Hall County jail jumpsuit and shackles on her hands and ankles, Stacey Schoeck said she had another motive to take the stand.
“I’m going to testify truthfully for Richard,” she told chief assistant district attorney Lindsay Burton. “It’s all I can give his mom and his family and the children — all I can give them is the truth.”
When she decided to kill him in December 2009, Stacey Schoeck said she believed Richard Schoeck was molesting her children.
Saying that she was molested as a child, Schoeck said she drew the conclusion because her children were acting out — one had shoplifted — like she said she had as a teenager.
“I was just so fixated in my mind that Richard was doing something wrong that I said, ‘I don’t want the cops, I don’t want a divorce, I want him dead,’” Schoeck said.
She later learned her husband had done no such thing. But Richard Schoeck was already dead.
Richard Schoeck was shot to death at Belton Bridge Park near Lula on Valentine’s Day in 2010. Members of his family came to the Hall County courtroom to watch Stacey Schoeck’s testimony Thursday, one of them wearing a jacket printed with images of hot air balloons, one of the late Richard Schoeck’s hobbies.
Stacey Schoeck told the court Thursday that she hired Coleman to kill her husband through Ross, and that she and Coleman planned the murder in Ross’ presence.
Schoeck testified that, before she involved Ross, she originally tried to get another man who she knew did “illegal things” to help her with the crime.
But when the man never called her back, Schoeck confided in Ross at a Newnan Mexican restaurant in January 2010 that she wanted to kill her husband, she told the courtroom.
“Her response was ‘well, I know somebody who could do that for you,’” Schoeck said.
As Schoeck made the statement in court Thursday, Ross shook her head “no.” But Schoeck testified further of Ross’ telling her that Coleman “had a lot of experience” as a hit man.
“I didn’t know evil could come so easy. I was just like ‘really?’” Schoeck told the court.
According to Schoeck’s testimony, Ross then got in touch with Coleman, who asked to meet.
She then followed Ross to Coleman’s Austell home, and when they arrived Coleman dispatched Ross to a nearby Zaxby’s for food.
Schoeck testified that she and Coleman did not discuss the murder plot until Ross returned and that Ross was present as Coleman and Schoeck discussed a venue for the murder and his payment.
That weekend, Schoeck said she met Ross and Coleman at a Buford Walmart where the three rode together in Coleman’s car to scout out Belton Bridge Park.
After that, Schoeck said she gave Coleman a 2009 Chevrolet Impala she had been trying to sell for her grandparents and she never saw him again.
Coleman, a personal trainer who ran his business under the name “Mr. Results,” was listed as a contact in Stacey Schoeck’s phone when Hall County investigators took it in February 2010. He also had previously come to the DeKalb County spine clinic where Schoeck and Ross worked to offer lunchtime training sessions.
“The only times I ever saw or spoke to Reginald Coleman was the day we had Zaxby’s that afternoon and the following Saturday (when) we went up to Belton Bridge,” Schoeck testified. “Everything else was done through Lynitra.”
In exchange for what Schoeck said was Ross’ role, Schoeck gave Ross a house she owned on Devon Mill Road.
Already, Ross had been living in the house for months paying for needed repairs instead of rent, according to testimony.
When it was his turn to question Schoeck, Ross’ attorney Rodney Williams called into question her credibility as an honest witness, showing nearly an hour of a video of Hall County investigator Dan Franklin questioning Schoeck on the night of Richard Schoeck’s murder.
Schoeck repeatedly claimed ignorance of what might have led to her husband’s death.
“I don’t know anything,” Schoeck said. “I’m trying to think of it. I don’t know,” she says before grabbing her hair.
Again, when investigators asked her if she knew someone was going to hurt Richard Schoeck, Stacey Schoeck first said “you mean, tonight?”
Then she quickly adds “No. I never, ever, ever dreamed of anything happening to him — ever.”
Williams also questioned how, if Stacey Schoeck suspected her husband was molesting her children, she never inquired about it and continued to leave her children at home alone with Richard Schoeck.
“You think your children are being abused and you leave them with their abuser — is that what you’re telling this jury?” he asked.
Then he questioned how Stacey Schoeck could lie in bed with Richard Schoeck for a month, knowing she had already hired someone to kill him, and how she could tell him she loved him and let him cook dinner for her and her grandparents on Valentine’s Day 2010 as she did hours before Richard Schoeck’s murder.
“I said whatever I had to say to accomplish my goal of killing Richard that night,” Schoeck said.
And Williams questioned whether Schoeck was doing the same in court Thursday: saying what she had to say to get a promise from prosecutors that they wouldn’t seek the death penalty against her.
“I don’t consider life in prison a deal — a bargain,” Schoeck answered.