Man testifies he was hired to kill Va. woman, son in 2004
VIRGINIA BEACH — An Indiana Army veteran testified in court that he was hired by a Florida man to kill the man’s wife and her 7-year-old son in Virginia.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that 43-year-old Richard Stoner testified at a preliminary hearing Thursday about how Christopher Schmidt hired him and they planned and carried out the 2004 slaying of 29-year-old Lois Schmidt and Jonathan Vetrano, 7, her son from another marriage. Judge Deborah Bryan found prosecutors established sufficient probable cause, moving Schmidt’s case forward to a grand jury.
Stoner said the two men were shooting guns in a Florida field when the 46-year-old Schmidt mentioned wanting to shoot his wife. The Schmidts were divorcing and fighting over custody of their 1-year-old daughter. Stoner said he felt Schmidt took advantage of his emotional instability at the time.
“I felt obligated,” Stoner testified. “I pretty much gave him my word.”
Schmidt gave Stoner a manual called “Diary of a Hitman” and highlighted ideas like wearing oversized shoes to disguise footprints, which Stoner said he did, and they discussed the gun that would be used.
The men communicated by writing to each other in the unsent drafts folder of Stoner’s email account, Stoner testified.
Schmidt gave him a photo of Lois and her son, directions to the house in Virginia Beach and specific instructions not to bring a GPS system and wrap his phone battery in aluminum foil to avoid being tracked, he testified.
Schmidt was to pay Stoner $11,000, he testified, but Stoner only got $1,000.
Stoner testified about watching the home, then going to the front door, where Lois answered. He claimed to be a friend from high school and she slammed the door.
“I almost went home,” Stoner said.
He drove around the block and watched the house and “talked myself up” before approaching again and cutting phone lines and circuit breakers. He testified that he killed Lois Schmidt, her son and a dog, wounded her brother and then set the home on fire. Stoner drove to Schmidt’s Florida home, discarding evidence along the way, he said.
Police approached Stoner more than once, but he testified that it wasn’t until June that he admitted involvement: “I was cracking up at this point. I was done.”
Stoner and Schmidt were arrested in June on charges of first-degree murder and extradited to Virginia. Authorities said new information in the case led to the arrests.
Under questioning from Schmidt’s attorney, Stoner testified that he didn’t sign an agreement in which prosecutors said they wouldn’t seek the death penalty if he cooperated, saying he didn’t feel he “deserved” it: “I don’t feel I deserve to be given anything.”