Lauran Huntington and Jodi Harris Share Victim Impact Statements at Schmitt Commitment Hearing

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Published on December 11 2012 6:35 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Former Effingham resident Gary Schmitt could remain in mental health treatment for more than 80 years for the disorder that doctors say led to his killing his father and stabbing a mother and daughter.

The 48-year-old Schmitt was found not guilty by reason of insanity at an October stipulated bench trial of the murder of Jack Schmitt at his home in Effingham and the attempted murder of Jodi Harris and her daughter Lauran Huntington at their home in Edgewood.  At the time, Judge Kimberly Koester directed an examination of Schmitt be conducted by McFarland Mental Health Center in Sprignfield.

Schmitt is dealing with schitzoeffective disorder.  Doctors hired by both the defense and the prosecution found that the disorder did not allow Schmitt to understand the criminality of his actions at the time he committed the crimes. 

It was also established, though, that Schmitt had been treated for mental illness for several years and had lessened the amount of meds he was taking prior to the incidents.

(GARY SCHMITT)

Judge Koester was required by law to set a maximum period of time that Schmitt could be detained for treatment.  The judge today said that the period could not be greater than the amount of time Schmitt would've spent in prison for the offenses with which he was charged, so she set a 60-year maximum since that was the maximum possible for Jack Schmitt's murder and set a 30-year maximum for the attempted murders of Jodi Harris and her daughter since that was the maximum possible for those offenses.

That comes to 90 years, but Truth in Sentencing guidelines apply in the attempted murder cases, so the 30-year term is lessened to 25-1/2 years.  Judge Koester said that means Schmitt can be housed for treatment until June 10, 2098.

Since Schmitt is 48 years old, such a ruling means he could be in treatment until his death.

Judge Koester directed Schmitt be held in a secured facility by the Department of Human Services until further order of the Court.  If he's ever transported outside the facility, Koester ordered he'd be placed in secure devices.

In their Victim Impact Statements, the mother and daughter victims of Schmitt's actions pulled no punches.

Lauran Huntington, now a high school senior, said "words will never express what I feel.  Life has truly been Hell for two years."  She said she can't sleep on one side for fear someone would come up behind her, and she has a full-length mirror in her bedroom so she can see out her door to make sure no one is approaching without her knowledge.  She said Schmitt "took away the last part of my childhood." 

Lauran also talked about the strength she has gained from her faith as a Christian, and told Schmitt she forgave him "for what you did to me, but I will never forgive what you did to my mom."

Jodi Harris described Schmitt's shoving a knife in her mouth and cutting out some of her teeth, being stabbed repeatedly and then seeing her daughter being attacked when she tried to come to Harris' defense.

Harris said she still has difficulty eating and swallowing and will deal with certain physical disabilities from the attack for the rest of her life.  She noted the irony in that Schmitt has been receiving three meals a day while in custody.

Harris also noted that Schmitt drove to Effingham from his home in Troy to kill his father and drove from his home to Edgewood to commit the attack on Harris and Huntington.  Harris said, "Driving two hours to kill someone is not insanity, it's a choice and he should be locked away for the rest of his life."

As far as those in the Schmitt family and whether they wanted to offer any statements, former State's Attorney Ed Deters said he had attempted to contact the family, but they had not responded.  Deters acknowledged it is a "difficult dynamic" for the Schmitts in that they lost someone but another family member caused the death.

The defense offered no arguments or evidence at the hearing.

Judge Koester said, "There is no good outcome to this case."  She did state that not guilty by reason of insanity is "a rarely used defense and rarely successful."  She also stated that those who utilize such a defense "often stay in treatment longer than those who are sentenced to prison for the offense."

Deters, who was appointed by Koester to assist new State's Attorney Bryan Kibler in the hearing since he handled the case to this point, said after the hearing that the most difficult aspect of the way the matter ended is "there is no certainty" that Schmitt will remain in custody for a certain period of time as would be the case if he'd received a prison sentence.

Koester closed the hearing with the hope that "Mr. Schmitt will receive the treatment he needs and that all parties will be able to move forward" with their lives.