Schmitt Found Not Guilty Due to Insanity

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Published on October 19 2012 3:24 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Former Effingham resident Gary Schmitt has been found not guilty by reason of insanity in the June 2010 murder of his father, Jack Schmitt and the stabbings of Jodi Harris and her daughter Lauran Huntington in their home in Edgewood in January 2011.

After returning her verdicts, Judge Kimberly Koester scheduled a commitment hearing for 10am on November 28 to determine when, how and where Schmitt will be treated.  He will remain in Effingham County Jail until the commitment hearing.

The verdicts were returned by Judge Koester at the end of two stipulated bench trials Friday morning, after Schmitt waived his right to trial by jury.  Effingham County State's Attorney Ed Deters presented the evidence he would've presented at the jury trial.  The judge also reviewed the psychiatric examinations of Schmitt conducted by doctors for both the defense and the prosecution.  Both doctors said Schmitt was fit to assist in his defense, but both also said his psychosis at the time the murder and the stabbings occurred did not allow Schmitt to understand the criminality of his actions.  Schmitt was dealing with schizo effective disorder.  He had been undergoing treatment, including periods of hospitalization, and was on medication for his illness, but acknowledged he had not been taking his medication or had been cutting the dosage at times prior to the incidents.

Deters said after the hearing that the recommendation could be for inpatient or outpatient treatment, but he doesn't see how outpatient treatment could be an option for someone who killed one person and tried to kill two others.

Jodi Harris said after the proceedings that she was alright with the resolution of the matter, but said she would be making a victim impact statement at the commitment hearing.  Deters said in his remarks before Judge Koester that "the victims have gone from initial unhappiness to cautious acceptance" of the decision to proceed in the case in this manner.

During the evidence presentation, Deters said Schmitt told authorities he hit Jack Schmitt in the back of his head with a rock he had brought from his home in Troy.  Schmitt said he hit his father several times, but at one point his father was still alive on his hands and knees and asked his son, "What are you doing?"  Schmitt said he then hit his father again. 

Schmitt said his father was ill and was suffering from cancer.  He said a coworker had gone through chemotherapy and he didn't want his father to go through the same thing.  He also told police his father told him once that if he got to that condition, he wanted his son to "end it."  When police, though, asked Schmitt whether he thought his father wanted to die that day, Schmitt answered, "probably not."

Schmitt's admission that he killed his father came when he was being questioned about the stabbings of Jodi Harris and Lauran Huntington, which occurred in January 2011, about seven months later.

Harris had found Schmitt's Facebook page and remembered him from high school and sent Schmitt a friend request.  Schmitt accepted and they talked by phone and said they would get together sometime.  Schmitt went to Harris' house uninvited, but was asked in when he showed up.  After a few minutes, he asked Harris for a drink of water and when she went to get it, Schmitt came up behind her and hit her and then began stabbing her with his hunting knife.  When she heard her mother's screams, Lauran came out of her bedroom and tried to stop Schmitt and that's when he began stabbing her.  Lauran ran back into her bedroom and then ran out of the house, screaming for help.  Their next door neighbor, Todd Yocum, came to the house and hollered at Schmitt, asking what he was doing.  Schmitt had fallen but when he started to get up, Yocum went out of the house and called police for assistance.  In the meantime, Schmitt calmly walked out of the house, got in his vehicle, and drove away.

Schmitt went to his mother's house in Effingham.  Covered in blood, he gave his mother the knife and also whispered to her that he had killed his father.  He also said he had gone to church that morning, which was a Sunday, and said "God had told him to do this."  He said Jodi was a "sacrificial lamb". 

Jodi Harris suffered 17 stab wounds including one in her mouth, causing her to lose six teeth.  Lauran Huntington suffered seven stab wounds and both mother and daughter suffered a collapsed lung.  Both were in Carle Hospital in Urbana for several days of treatment.

Harris said she had no contact with Schmitt since high school until the Facebook contact, and authorities today said there was no evidence of any reason for Schmitt's actions other than his psychosis.