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Leo Schofield Describes His Search for Missing Wife Michelle Latest News!
Leo Schofield has been in prison for over 30 years, convicted in 1989 of the murder of his first wife Michelle two years earlier, and is still seeking to prove his innocence. “Innocent had no involvement in it, no plan in it, had no idea it was occurring, had no idea it was going to happen and didn’t want it to happen.” That’s me,” he said in an exclusive interview from prison, which will air Friday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on “20/20.”
Prosecutors claimed that Leo Schofield, then 21, was a man brimming with rage who was ready to erupt against his wife. Schofield’s defense attorney contended that there was no physical evidence linking him to the stabbing homicide and that the state’s timeline of events was illogical.
Among those who have believed Schofield‘s tale and fought to exonerate him are his second wife Crissie and the non-profit group The Innocence Project of Florida. Evidence unearthed in the last decade, according to Schofield and his supporters, that links the murder to another individual has become key to Schofield’s case, although even that path has run into multiple legal stumbling blocks.
On February 24, 1987, Michelle Saum Schofield, then 18, failed to pick up Leo from her employment at a restaurant in Lakeland, Florida. Leo Schofield stated that he grew concerned and began driving about town with his father and mother, as well as chatting to friends and family, in an attempt to locate his wife.
Police, friends, and family explored the neighborhood and eventually discovered her abandoned and broken-in automobile. Michelle’s body was discovered in a canal in Bone Valley, a location in central Florida, three days after she went missing.
She was stabbed 26 times. I was furious with God at the time.” My clothing was pulled off. “I punched a tree and punched the ground while ripping grass out of the earth,” Leo Schofield explained.
Leo Schofield’s previous outbursts of rage would play a role in the investigation, as neighbors, acquaintances, and family members informed detectives that he was unpredictable and fought with Michelle in their home. Multiple witnesses detailed Leo’s physical abuse of Michelle, including one statement by Michelle’s best friend in which Leo threatened to kill his wife.
An interview with a neighbor, Alice Scott, who claimed she heard the couple fighting from her bathroom the night Michelle Schofield went missing and later saw Leo Schofield place a huge object into the trunk of the car and drive away, was crucial to their inquiry.
A couple who lived nearby informed police that the morning after Michelle Schofield went missing, they saw her car and a truck belonging to Leo Scofield’s father near where her body was discovered. Leo Schofield was detained by police in June 1988.
Schofield’s counsel called Scott’s testimony into question throughout the trial, arguing that the timing of the purported altercation in the residence contradicted descriptions of where he was observed at the time. Schofield’s counsel stated that according to Scott’s testimony, the disagreement occurred just before Leo Schofield was with his wife’s father, who was many miles away.
The attorney maintained that he couldn’t have traveled that quickly from their home to his father-in-house. laws. “You’re going to find some disparities with witness evidence in whatever case you look at,” former Polk County State Attorney Jerry Hill, who presided over the Schofield criminal investigation, told 20/20. “It’s natural. I don’t believe any witness looked at their watch and said, ‘There’s Leo.’ I believe they were being as truthful as they could in approximating exactly what they saw.”
During the trial, prosecutors relied on 21 character witnesses to testify about incidents in which they witnessed Leo Schofield acting aggressively and violently. Some said that Leo Schofield was physically violent to his wife, including pulling her hair.
Schofield testified that he refuted witness statements but acknowledged hitting his wife twice. “Physical abuse is one sort of abuse, and emotional abuse, which I am guilty of,” he explained. “I did a lot of ranting… “I wasn’t above striking a wall and being quite dramatic,” he admitted.
During her research, Crissie claims she made a significant discovery: fingerprints recovered inside Michelle’s car had never been recognized. Whoever left their fingerprints in that car had to know something.” “We need to figure out who that person is,” she explained.
Scott Cupp, a new defense attorney engaged by Crissie Schofield, was able to secure a copy of the fingerprints from the Florida State Police in 2004. The prints were then examined through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which Polk County investigators did not have at the time, and they matched those of convicted killer Jeremy Scott, who was serving a life term for a homicide in 1988.
Alice Scott, the neighbor who testified against Leo Schofield, is not related to Jeremy Scott. Questions arose after the St. Petersburg Times, at the time, began reporting on the matter and published an in-depth investigative piece in 2007.
Alice Scott’s testimony was called into question after her ex-husband, Ricky Scott, told the St. Petersburg Times that she had a habit of distorting the truth. “There’s no way Alice could’ve seen and heard what she said she heard and saw at the Schofields’ that night from that little bathroom window,” he told reporters from the St. Petersburg Times.
When reporters questioned Alice Scott about her ex-statement, husband she replied, “When I couldn’t see and hear from the bathroom window that well, I walked to the screened porch,” which contrasted with her testimony in Schofield’s trial.
“She never mentioned it at trial,” Gilbert King, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and the creator of “Bone Valley,” a new podcast about the case, told “20/20.” “That was all new to me.” When asked about Alice Scott’s statement to the St. Petersburg Times, Jerry Hill told: “20/20” that he thought Alice Scott was “credible” at the time she testified and that her account had been corroborated by his detectives.
”We had no fewer than three different individuals go corroborate that she could indeed see what she said she saw, from where she said she saw it,” he explained. The new defense team for Leo Schofield requested a trial based on fingerprint evidence. Jeremy Scott admitted to being a car audio thief in the area during his 2010 deposition with Leo Schofield’s attorneys but denied killing Michelle Schofield.
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