An Indiana army veteran has told a court how he came to be hired by a Florida man to kill the man’s wife and her son who were embroiled in a bitter custody battle.
Richard Stoner, 43, from Indiana, testified on Thursday, that he killed Lois Schmidt from Virginia, her son from another marriage and a dog, wounded her brother and then set their home on fire in 2004.
The Virginian-Pilot reports Stoner was practicing shooting guns with his friend, 46-year-old Christopher Schmidt from Florida, 14 years ago, when Schmidt mentioned wanting to shoot his wife.
Schmidt and his wife, Lois, were in the middle of a divorce and battling for custody of their one-year-old daughter.
Richard Stoner, 43, from Indiana was practicing shooting guns when his friend Christopher Schmidt, 46, from Florida, mentioned wanting to shoot his wife Lois Schmidt (pictured above with her son, Jonathan, from a previous relationship)
Video courtesy WTKR
Schmidt had fired a shot at a metal silhouette. Stoner had complimented the shot and, according to Stoner, Schmidt had replied. ‘I wish that was Lois.’
Stoner said to Schmidt that he had friends who could take care of it.
Stoner was testifying against Schmidt at a preliminary hearing in Virginia on Thursday.
Stoner went on to describe how plans were made that led to Stoner gunning down Lois Schmidt, 29, and her seven-year-old son from a previous marriage, Jonathan Vetrano.
Stoner told the court he thought Schmidt was joking but he went on to give Stoner a book of ideas called ‘Diary of a Hitman’ (pictured)
Schmidt is charged with one count of first-degree murder. Stoner, who was once married to a cousin of Schmidt’s, is facing two counts.
Stoner and Schmidt were arrested in June, on charges of first-degree murder and extradited to Virginia, almost 14 years after the killings, after police uncovered new information in what had become a cold case.
The Schmidt’s separated in 2003 and Lois Schmidt had moved in with her parents.
On June 28, 2004, Lois Schmidt, her son and her brother were at home in Virginia Beach when a gunman came in and shot them all.
The Schmidt’s one-year-old daughter was staying with her father in Florida.
Stoner (pictured right) testified that plans were made with Schmidt (pictured left) that led to Stoner gunning down Lois Schmidt, 29, and her seven-year-old son from a previous marriage, Jonathan Vetrano
The brother survived the shooting. One dog also was killed, another wounded. The house was then set on fire.
Stoner told the court how he’d initially thought Schmidt was ‘joking’ but how Schmidt’s visits to Stoner’s house become more frequent and plans were made.
Stoner said Schmidt gave him a manual called ‘Diary of a Hitman.’ He’d highlighted ideas such as wearing over-sized shoes at the scene which Stoner said he did.
The duo talked about what weapon was to be used. It was decided that it would be a Russian pistol called a Makarov.
Stoner had driven to the house in Virginia Beach on June 28, 2004, after being given a specific time to go to the property, a photo of Lois and her son, along with a map and directions from Florida.
Stoner said he’d lingered around the property for more than a hour before the killings. Schmidt had said there would be no-one else home, although that didn’t turn out to be the case.
Stoner testified that he killed Lois Schmidt, her son from another marriage and a dog and then set their home on fire after being hired by Christopher Schmidt (pictured above)
Lois Schmidt had answered the door and Stoner said he was a high school friend, but he wasn’t invited in and Lois Schmidt had slammed the door, according to Stoner.
Stoner said he was going to go home but instead he lingered around the house before eventually going into the garage. He cut the phone lines and popped the circuit breakers.
Lois Schmidt had opened the door between the house and the garage with her son close by.
Stoner told the court how he hadn’t been warned by Schmidt there would be a dog. He shot the animal and then turned the gun on Lois Schmidt who he said was screaming.
Stoner testified he told her seven-year-old son to run.
Lois Schmidt’s brother had come into the hallway from a bedroom and Stoner fired down the hall and then followed the brother, shooting him again.
Stoner said he told Jonathan Vetrano, 7, who was sitting on the couch, to run again but ended up shooting him when he considered the child would be ‘messed up’ from seeing what had happened to his mother and ‘better off’ if Stoner killed him.
Police said they uncovered new information this summer about the 2004 killings that led to the arrests of Richard Stoner and Christopher Schmidt
He’d then poured gasoline on the floor and dropped a chlorine tab in brake fluid to set the house on fire.
Stoner drove back to Schmidt’s house in Florida, he told the court, and discarded evidence along the way.
Stoner said police had approached him three times but in June this year he admitted involvement. ‘I was cracking up at this point. I was done,’ he said.
He added that he felt Schmidt took advantage of his emotionally instability at the time.
‘I felt obligated,’ Stoner testified. ‘I pretty much gave him my word.’
Schmidt was to pay Stoner $11,000 for the killings, he said, although Stoner only got $1,000.