A Michigan man who murdered a gay admirer three days after the victim revealed his same-sex crush on the “Jenny Jones” talk show has been set free after 22 years in prison.
Jonathan Tyler Schmitz, 47, was released Tuesday on parole, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. Schmitz, who had been sentenced to between 25 and 50 years in prison for murdering Scott Amedure, was granted parole following a March hearing, NBC News reported.
A Department of Corrections spokesman told People magazine that Schmitz was granted parole prior to serving the minimum of his sentencing range because of “good behavior” credit he earned while behind bars.
Schmitz was 24 when he was invited to Chicago on March 6, 1995, to participate in the taping of an episode of the nationally syndicated “Jenny Jones” show that revolved around secret crushes. During the segment, which ultimately never aired, Jones questioned Amedure and a female friend, Donna Riley, about Amedure’s feelings for Schmitz -- including talk about sexual fantasies he’s had -- before calling out the unsuspecting Schmitz, who had been wearing headphones backstage so he could not hear the conversation.
Schmitz told police immediately after the slaying that Jones’ producers told him his admirer was a woman, according to the New York Times. Jones and her staff later denied that claim, saying that Schmitz knew his admirer could be either male or female.
It was only when he took the stage that Schmitz was told that his secret admirer was Amedure, 32, who was an acquaintance in their hometown of Lake Orion, located about 30 miles north of Detroit. The men had met through Riley, who lived in the same apartment complex as Schmitz.
Footage of the segment, made public in recent years, shows a laughing, embarrassed-looking Schmitz turn to Amedure and Riley and say, “You lied to me.”
Schmitz is jovial toward Amedure, but appears embarrassed again when Jones has her staff roll back the footage of Amedure talking about his sexual fantasies. Schmitz covers his face with his hands.
Jones asks Schmitz about his relationship status and he says he’s available, but straight. He says Amedure’s crush is flattering, but reiterates that he is not interested.
Schmitz, Amedure and Riley all returned home to Michigan, where Schmitz later told police that his experience at the television taping had “eaten away” at him, the Times reported. Three days later, he found an unsigned note of a sexual nature left at his apartment.
Assuming it was from Amedure, Schmitz bought a shotgun and ammunition, the Times reported. He went to Amedure’s mobile home and shot him twice in the chest at close range.
He immediately called 911 and turned himself in. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996, but that conviction was overturned on appeal.
He was once again found guilty in 1999.
Both defense attorneys and prosecutors in the case, as well as the families of both Schmitz and Amedure, said after the slaying that Jones and her staff shouldered some of the blame for Amedure’s murder, People reported.
“The ‘Jenny Jones’ show ambushed this defendant with humiliation,” the newsmagazine quoted Oakland County prosecutor Richard Thompson as saying.
Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney who represented the Amedure family in a civil suit against the show’s producers and its owner, Warner Bros., told People that after serving 22 years, Schmitz had “completed virtually his entire sentence.”
“I’m not absolving Schmitz of his crime,” Fieger said. “I’m just saying that the ‘Jenny Jones’ show and the people that were behind the show were equally responsible.”
A jury agreed in 1999, awarding the Amedure family $25 million in damages. According to a CNN story at the time, $5 million was awarded for Amedure’s suffering before he succumbed to his shotgun wounds, $10 million was awarded for his family’s loss of his companionship and another $10 million was awarded for the loss of the income he would have earned over his lifetime.
That verdict and award was later overturned, People reported.
Frank Amedure Jr., Scott Amedure’s older brother, told the newsmagazine that, like anyone who’s lost a family member to murder, he’s not comfortable knowing that Schmitz has been released.
“It might be easier if he was old, an old gray-haired man,” Amedure, 58, said. “But he’s still pretty young at 47. He’s still got a lot to go, and my brother doesn’t.”
Amedure did say, however, that Schmitz was victimized by the television show.
“I do, and some of my family members do, feel that Jonathan Schmitz was only as much to blame as the ‘Jenny Jones’ show,” Amedure said. “Their people are criminals for what they did. Jonathan Schmitz was sort of like a fall guy in their conspiracy.”
Jones, whose show was on the air from 1991 to 2003, has always denied culpability in Amedure’s murder.
“It was not the ‘Jenny Jones murder,’” Jones told People in 1999. “It was the ‘Jonathan Schmitz murder.’”
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