It had all the makings of a romantic tryst for a married couple. A quick date in a dark park, with just enough time to exchange Valentine’s Day cards before returning to reality.
Or at least that’s what Stacey Schoeck told her husband. Instead, it was a way to lure Richard Schoeck, of Snellville, to his death. He was shot to death at Belton Bridge Park in northern Hall County on Feb. 14, 2010, in a murder-for-hire plot, and his wife was the mastermind, according to the district attorney who prosecuted the case.
“It was such a heinous murder done to someone that did not deserve it at all,” Richard Schoeck’s sister, Carol Fillingim, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “She was such a cowardly woman that couldn’t keep herself in control and had never had anyone that stood up to her. When you get too much power and control, you just believe you can do anything.”
Thursday was the third anniversary of the murder. But even more important to Richard Schoeck’s family, it’s the first Valentine’s Day in state prison for the three convicted killers.
“I hope it keeps other criminals from thinking they can get away with something like this,” Fillingim said.
Richard Schoeck’s family and investigators suspected Stacey Schoeck was involved from the beginning. But it would be more than three months before police would have enough evidence to arrest her and two others.
Stacey Schoeck admitted right away that she was having an affair on her fifth husband, 46-year-old Richard, Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh said Thursday. But she wasn’t as quick to admit that she’d hired a hitman through a mutual friend, Darragh said.
Lynitra Ross and Stacey Schoeck knew each other through work, and it was Ross who would serve as the go-between, police said. Ross brought Reginald Coleman, the believed triggerman, into the mix.
After Richard Schoeck was killed, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office went to work, Darragh said. Phone records revealed extensive communication between the three suspects before, during and after the crime, Darragh said. Stacey Schoeck wanted her husband dead and had paid someone to do it, detectives determined.
In order to spare her own life, Stacey Schoeck agreed to testify against both Ross and Coleman, Darragh said. Ross never accepted responsibility for her role in the killing, but was sentenced in August to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In November, Coleman also pleaded guilty and got the same punishment as Ross, Darragh said. The following month, Stacey Schoeck pleaded guilty. As the third member of a trio of convicted murderers, she was also sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But one question remains unanswered three years after Richard Schoeck’s death. Why? Stacey Schoeck offered only one excuse.
“Stacey has claimed and did testify on the stand that she believed — and later found out that there was no evidence of — Richard was molesting one or both of her children,” Darragh said. “However, one of those children later told her there was absolutely no truth to anything like that.”
But that was the only excuse There was never any proof that Richard Schoeck had done anything to warrant his brutal death, Darragh said. An avid outdoorsman, artist and hot air balloon pilot, Richard Schoeck had adopted his wife’s children and treated them like his own, his family said.
“Richard was a fine man, a Boy Scout leader, a very community-minded, compassionate person,” Darragh said. “He was a busy, well-liked person.”
If something was broken or someone needed help, Richard Schoeck was there, his family said. He could fix anything and was the ultimate problem-solver.
“He was always there,” Fillingim said. “He would help anybody do anything.”
Richard Schoeck would have turned 50 in June, and his family plans to host a large get-together with the friends he cherished. They’ll tell stories and share memories, but he won’t be there for the celebration.
“It will never be behind us. We’re trying to get a little closure to it,” Fillingim said. “This is my closure — getting everyone to know that he’s not been forgotten.”