Wrongfully Imprisoned for 29 Years: The Leo Schofield Story

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The witnesses cited occasional incidences of hair pulling, slapping, and screaming matches as evidence of domestic unrest.

Leo’s defense attorney, Jack Edmund, was underprepared and failed to challenge this depiction, allowing Aguero to lead witnesses into hyperbole and speculation.

The result?

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The jury returned a verdict in 2 hours: guilty.

Leo Schofield was sentenced to life in prison.

“Anyone can be wrong and make a mistake. It’s what you do with it when you’re face to face with the facts that counts. I, and my family have paid an indescribable price to find justice for Michelle because the ‘system’ failed us long ago.” – Leo Schofield


Leo with his wife, Crissie, and daughter, Ashley

Schofield filed an appeal in ’89, denied.

Another in ’92, denied.

Again and again and again. Every appeal denied.

And so, Leo Schofield sat in prison, choosing to spend his time helping others. He eventually landed a job as a teaching aide for Crissie Carter, helping to teach a life skills course for other inmates.

“A lot of people get involved [with Leo’s case] because they hear the story from me…and then they meet Leo, there’s something about him, he’s special,” – Crissie Carter

She listened to Leo’s story, and after doing her own research found that there were too many holes in the prosecution’s case. Crissie and Leo grew closer through this process and in 1995, they got married.

“My family was supportive, but not necessarily happy.” Says Crissie, “I have friends that don’t talk to me anymore.”

She thought that advanced forensic technology might be able to make sense of the unknown set of fingerprints and began contacting multiple law enforcement agencies to see if they could run the prints again.

Carter became Leo’s greatest advocate, telling his story to anyone who will listen and working tirelessly to gain his freedom.

“A lot of people get involved [with Leo’s case] because they hear the story from me…and then they meet Leo, there’s something about him, he’s special,” says Crissie.

Finally, in 2004, one of Crissie’s friends had the prints run.

The results were astounding.

Jeremy Scott, a man with a rap sheet a mile long, a man imprisoned for murder, a man with a long history of violence, and a man who lived less than two miles away from the location of Michelle’s body.

“Jeremy Scott’s former girlfriend, Jami Nelams, testified to Scott’s violent history, saying that he had struck her with a baseball bat and choked her to unconsciousness.

Leo and Crissie tried to get a hearing based on the new evidence. After being denied in 2008, they were granted a hearing in 2010, in which Jeremy Scott was called to testify. Scott testified that his fingerprints were on the car windshield (which was false, they were found in the rear of the vehicle) because he stole the stereo out of the car (which, in investigators’ photographs of the vehicle was still present). It should also be noted that, prior to the hearing, the original prosecutor on the case, John Aguero, held an unrecorded private meeting with Scott.

Jeremy Scott’s former girlfriend, Jami Nelams, testified to Scott’s violent history, saying that he had struck her with a baseball bat and choked her to unconsciousness. She also testified that he had frequently taken her to the same location where Michelle’s body was found.

Circuit Judge Keith P. Spoto (a former colleague of prosecutor John Aguero) denied the motion for a new trial, saying that the fingerprint evidence would likely not result in a different verdict for Schofield and that the evidence presented against Schofield was “substantial and convincing.”

“Can somebody just slam the podium and say, NO NO NO!” Said Crissie, expressing frustration with the process, “enough is enough.”

Scott Cupp, Leo’s attorney at the time, also expressed disappointment, “the frustrating thing is that I feel strongly, nobody has the read the trial record.”

Leo Schofield, with wife Crissie Carter, and adopted daughter Ashley Nicole

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes” – Leo Schofield

Leo and Crissie’s adopted daughter, Ashley Nicole, 16 years old, has become more involved in the case. “My dad’s rule is ‘speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.’ He’s always taught me to be truthful.”

Last year, Ashley spoke before a parole commission that ended in Leo being denied parole, again. “I felt like they didn’t really care.” She says.

In September of 2016, Leo Schofield’s latest attorney, Andrew Crawford, filed a motion to present new evidence. Crawford states in the motion that Jeremy Scott confessed to the murder in a call earlier in the year. A couple of days before the confession, Leo had prayed for “truthfulness and forgiveness” in the case. Jeremy Scott’s confession included full detail of the murder and how it was carried out.

“I have tried to hold onto the belief that justice always wins in the end.” Leo says. “Almost 30 years later and a long prison experience. I don’t know if justice can ever be obtained, but I am tired and wearing down. I have my wife today of nearly 26 years, and a daughter who is now 16 years old, both of which need me home. And I need to be with them.”

“The only thing that matters to him is his two girls.” Ashley is ready for her father to be released so that they can lead a normal life. “There are times in my life where I want to call him and talk, sometimes I dial the number on my phone, and then I realize I can’t.”

“I’ve been training for the Olympics in karate, and we’re going to go the 2020 Olympics together, that’s something we have to look forward to.” – Ashley Nicole, Leo’s Daughter

She is hopeful that her father will be released soon, “I’ve been training for the Olympics in karate, and we’re going to go the 2020 Olympics together, that’s something we have to look forward to.”