Accused in patricide: “God told me to do it”
EFFINGHAM CO.—A murder about which many in the neighborhood complained bitterly over police ineffectiveness has had a startling development.
And unfortunately the development has a somewhat religious overtone: the suspect in it. Gary Schmitt, 46, of Troy, Illinois and a member of the school board there, has told officials that “God told him” to take his own father’s life
On June 19, 2010, Jack Schmitt, 72, a well-known Effingham man, was found dead in the garage of his home in the Shenandoah subdivision.
Authorities did not release information on the fact that Schmitt had been bludgeoned multiple times because they “didn’t want to impede the investigation.” However, many residents of Effingham—one of the larger downstate burgs—didn’t even know the man had died until his obituary appeared days later in local news outlets.
Shenandoah residents voiced their disapproval of what appeared to be an abject clamp-down on anything resembling information about Schmitt’s death. Complaints issued to Disclosure were that the police at times alluded that they had a suspect, but gave no further information or insight, prompting people in the area to be scared to the point of panic that there was still a murderer in their midst. A composite sketch was released in late August, but authorities were vague about who had developed it (“a forensic sketch artist”) or who witnesses were to give it (“a witness” was all they would give up).
Then over the weekend (Sunday, Jan. 16), two women from Edgewood, Kimberly Joan “Jodi” Smith Bourland, 43, and her daughter, Lauran Christine Huntington, 15, were attacked in their home by a man they allowed to stop in and visit, unannounced, after he and Jodi had recently “reconnected” their high school acquaintanceship on Facebook. The man was Gary Schmitt. Jodi was stabbed 15 times in the face, neck, chest and abdomen; when her daughter walked in, she was stabbed five times in the neck shoulder and chest. She was able to get outside the house and attract the attention of a neighbor, who called police.
Schmitt was able to get away, but was later found at his mother’s home, the stabbing weapon in the vicinity. Police apprehended him and took him in for an interview, which was videotaped. During the interview, Schmitt reportedly told officials that God had told him to stab the two women….just like He’d told Schmitt to stab his dad last summer.
Schmitt also partially justified his alleged patricide by telling law enforcement that since his father was suffering from cancer, that also was a good reason to end his suffering in this life. To this day, however, there’s no clear indication of whether or not Schmitt really was suffering from cancer.
Schmitt is being held on two counts of First-Degree Murder, two counts of Attempted Murder, and two counts of Aggravated Battery. Given the youthful age of one of his alleged victims, he is eligible for extended sentencing, and so even if he takes a plea, chances are good that Schmitt won’t be answering the call of God—at least in the outside world where the rest of us live—for a long long time, if ever.
More in the print version, on stands Feb. 9…you can sign up for subscriptions by hitting the PayPal link, as we don’t have vendors in E-ham (although we do sell a buttload of papers in north Clay, on the way toward coverage areas of Edgewood and south E-ham County).
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