Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Judge Releases Schmitt Early ; Man Plans to Atone for Killing

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Judge Releases Schmitt Early ; Man Plans to Atone for Killing

Article excerpt

A Posey County man sentenced to 75 years for fatally shooting a convenience store clerk in 1998 will be released from prison next week. Erick S. Schmitt had been scheduled for release in September 2016, but a Vigo County judge approved a sentence modification Thursday allowing the 33-year-old Schmitt to leave prison next week.

The Tribune-Star, in Terre Haute, Ind., reported Schmitt will be placed on home detention for the balance of his sentence and must also serve 10 years on probation and submit to drug screens.

It is a radically different outcome than the potential life without parole or death sentence that Schmitt faced at trial had the jury convicted him of intentional murder.

Schmitt was 19 in 1998 when he and two other teenagers robbed a Vanderburgh County convenience store at gunpoint, killing 55-year- old clerk Charlie Simpson and wounding a customer, Brent Tracy. The case was moved to Vigo County so Schmitt could receive a fair trial.

He was convicted of murder and attempted murder, and could have faced a potential death sentence for the killing of Simpson, a 55- year-old Moto Mart clerk. Jurors, though, didn't convict him of intentional murder, instead choosing the lesser offense of reckless homicide.

Simpson's shooting was caught on the store's video camera.

During the trial, Schmitt's attorney, Michael Keating, described his client as having a normal upbringing on a Posey County dairy farm but said that he struggled with depression that led to drug use. He argued that Schmitt - who testified that he didn't remember shooting Simpson - shouldn't be convicted of intentional murder because he was under the influence of drugs at the time.

"It was a perfect example of a kid doing something under the influence of methamphetamine. Really, that was the only explanation," Keating said Friday.

At his sentencing, clinical psychiatrists testified that Schmitt was prone to violence because of long-term drug abuse, which began at age 12. Before being sentenced, Schmitt read from a brief statement, saying he was sorry for all the pain he has caused. …

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