A Texas man who grew up in Illinois was convicted Tuesday of murdering his grandmother in her suburban East Dundee home, according to the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office.
A jury found 44-year-old Rich A. Schmelzer, of Frisco, Texas, guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2014 stabbing death of 85-year-old Mildred “Dodie” Darrington.
Over the course of the 11-day trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Schmelzer “became deeply in debt as a result of a lavish lifestyle involving female escorts and other extravagances that were well beyond his means,” the State’s Attorney’s office said in a release.
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At the time, he was married with four daughters and unable to pay his bills, authorities said, failing to make mortgage payments for more than four years. Schmelzer had asked family members for loans to no avail, officials said, and as the co-executor of Darrington’s estate, began to transfer money from her credit cards.
Schmelzer stood to inherit half of his grandmother’s $800K estate, and began plotting in mid-July 2014 to drive from Texas to the Chicago area to murder her, prosecutors said.
He had a cousin rent a car in the cousin’s name, officials said, and used a prepaid gift card to cover his expenses, including a cell phone he purchased to use on the trip. Schmelzer told his wife he would be attending a conference in the Dallas area, according to prosecutors, and began the 14-hour drive to East Dundee on July 17.
Schmelzer arrived the next morning, let himself in and stabbed Darrington in the neck as she was in bed, according to authorities. When she failed to show up for her regular hair appointment, her hairdresser went to check on her and called 911 upon finding her unresponsive in her bed, officials said.
Prosecutors said Schmelzer was able to obtain a receipt from a restaurant he frequented near his home, falsely marked with a date and time corresponding to his trip to Illinois, and also convinced an acquaintance to send him an email implying that they had eaten lunch together at a time when he was actually driving back to Texas.
Schmelzer was arrested and charged with first-degree murder the following month, and has been in custody in the Kane County jail since September 2014 in lieu of $5 million bail.
“As we gathered the evidence of Mildred’s murder, it became clear how Mr. Schmelzer went to great lengths to attempt to cover up his crime,” Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said.
“His deceit is astonishing, and it was done because he was so overcome with greed. Quite frankly, it’s still hard to fathom – this man killed his own grandmother to further a lifestyle of gluttony that he couldn’t otherwise pay for. He had 14 hours and 900 miles to rethink his plan, but he carried it out, anyway — a calculated, cold-blooded murder.”
Schmelzer faces between 20 and 60 years in prison, and is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 25, 2017.