Thomas Schiro

Sadly, when you follow true crime cases as I do, so many of them just seem "routine."  I have a list of names or cases that when it is time to sit down and do some research I start going through the list to refresh myself on what the particular case was about and look to find one that strikes me at that moment. It really is not as easy as it seems.  Think of it as if you are watching a movie and it just seems so unoriginal and predictable that you know the ending before you are half way through.  That is quite often the case for me with true crime cases and especially the true crime shows on television. Of course the difference with true crime cases is that they involve real people.  I should be clear in saying that while I find "excitement" or interest in the crimes themselves I am also just as interested, if not more in the legal process a case takes.

I found this case, just as I have several of the last few cases, while I was researching another local case.  I came across the name of Thomas Schiro and all I really knew before searching was that he had been sentenced to death for a murder in the Evansville, Indiana area. But, keeping with my current tradition of posting local cases I thought I would check it out next.  What I found was much more than I bargained for. This was not a simple case of murder in which the perpetrator was sentenced to death.  This was a case that was full of legal moves and maneuvers made to keep a deserving person in prison where he belongs.... but wait, I got a little ahead of myself.

On the morning of February 5, 1981 Darlene Hooper went home to find her roommate, Laura Luebbehusen dead.  The police were called to process the scene.  It was determined that Laura had been severally beaten, sexually assaulted and even bitten but none of those things were what ultimately caused her death.  Her death was caused by strangulation.  Autopsy results also determined that some of the assaults to her body occurred after death.  Two days later her car was found a few blocks from a local half way house so the suspect seemed to expand.  The half way house was a transitional home for people getting out of prison, as well as often used as an alternative to jail or prison.  Thomas Schiro was a resident there. The research was confusing as to why he resided there.  At some point he had gotten in trouble for a robbery but I am unsure if he was simply sentenced to the half way house or if he was at the end time of a prison term.  Some research indicated that he received 3 years for the robbery but others indicated that it was a suspended sentence as if he spent that time at the half way house.  The rules at the half way house indicated that each resident was to sign in and out when they were there so that their time could be accounted for.  One article that I read stated that an employee at the half way house helped Schiro by falsifying the documents but strangely I found nothing else anywhere about this and everything else, including appeals, indicated that when Schiro realized the car that he confessed to the director of the house within four days of the murder.

Once the news hit the paper and Schiro was caught his picture was everywhere and it seems that crime victims began coming out of the woodwork.  Over the last several years there had been a long string of rapes in Evansville and some surrounding towns.  When Schiro's picture made the paper several women went to the police, independently, claiming that Schiro had raped them.  One thing, besides the rape, that many of the crimes shared was that young children were often present being forced to watch, oftentimes their mother, being attacked. Reality of the situation was however, that legally murder trumped rape and so that case took precedence.  They had time to go back and look at those cases if they needed to later.  

Thomas Schiro's trial was in September of 1981.  His defense attorney's attempted to convey that he was mentally insane, and Schiro did all he could to help them with that.  In fact, while awaiting trial he all but wrote what was later called his "autobiography" in which he confessed to many sexual assaults.  He was unable to give names but he gave approximate dates and places but most importantly he transcribed how he felt when he committed those crimes. The prosecution had not only this evidence but they had witnesses who said Schiro had confessed to about the murder.  Of course, like all criminals Schiro had a story as to what supposedly happened that night but I have to say that I do not think his story makes any sense and I find it to be far from the truth.  He says he gained access inside by stating he had car trouble and asking to use the phone.  Beyond that we have a sketchy story from him where he indicates as if they are getting along great and just having a wonderful chit chat while they drank alcohol, that is if you leave out the few times he says he raped her in between. Then at some point he beat her with a liquor bottle and an iron (both items were found near her body) as he continued to rape her again as well as he then strangled her.  He claimed to have "cleaned up the house" before leaving yet when Darlene Hooper arrived the next morning, it was far from cleaned up. Despite their attempts at claiming that Schiro was unstable it seems the defense was unable to find a doctor who would testify to this.  It was noticed, especially by the judge, that throughout the trial when the jury was present that Schiro consistently rocked back and forth in his seat. The jury did not have a difficult time in finding Schiro guilty but they did not think he deserved the death penalty and recommended a life sentence.  To the defense attorney's they seemed to see this as a win.  That is until the judge sentenced him on October 2, 1981.  The judge had seen the act that Schiro was putting on and he let him know it.  I pointed out that the rocking back and forth was only present when the jury was present but that when the defendant and the lawyers were in chambers there had been none.  In the judge's mind Schiro was faking his mental issues and the judge called him out on it.  In return instead of giving him the life sentence that the jury recommended he sentenced Schiro to death.  

Prosecutors were satisfied.  And all those old rape cases?  What was the point? The man responsible was going to Indiana's Death Row and never harm another woman.  In fact, there had been a murder in Atlanta in which not only had Schiro confessed to in his "autobiography" but the authorities there knew he was responsible but did not see the sense in pressing charges considering he had already been given the ultimate sentence.  So time went on as it does in cases like this and every few years there were appeals heard and for the next 15 years there was no change. Then in 1996, things did changed.  The Indiana Supreme Court heard an appeal that had worked it's way up and they decided 4-1 that the judge erred in sentencing Schiro to death after the jury recommended a life sentence.  So, in their opinion, they fixed it and sentenced him to the maximum allowed at the time, 60 years. Keep in mind that during those 15 years in jail he had far from been a model prisoner.  In fact, it was reported in 2005 that he had racked up more than 20 violations while in prison.  In one of those, in 1983, it got five years added ( to his then death sentence) for battery within the prison on an officer.  He had violations for fighting, threatening people, possession of weapons, and even drug use.  By the Indiana Department of Corrections estimation Schiro would now be released in 2007.  Well that did not sit well at all with the prosecutors or the community at large.  That is when they started going back and looking at all the old rape cases.

It was a daunting task.  First they had to find one that they felt they would have enough evidence to secure a conviction.  That was going to be pretty difficult when there was little to no forensics available. But, the prosecutors believe there was a situation in which two women were involved that they would have a good chance but to do that the first step would be to find the women.  

In September of 1980 "G.G" (as she was noted in court records) was at home sleeping in her bed with her 10 year old daughter when she woke up to find a man standing over her bed. He attacked and raped her while her daughter begged the man to leave her mother alone.  He even threatened the daughter that if she did not stop he would kill her mother.  When he was done he told G.G that he would come back and he left.  Obviously scared and scarred G.G and her daughter moved out within just a few days. Not long later "L.S." who was pregnant, her husband, her infant son and their disabled young daughter moved into the same place G.G had just moved out of.  They had no knowledge of what had occurred there.  On the evening of September 4, 1980 while putting her children to bed L.S. heard a noise in the kitchen.  She went in to find a man warming his hands over the stove.  Although she did not recognize the man she thought it was a friend of her husband's who had just ran to the store for a few things and told the man he would be returning.  She turned around and went back to her children.  The man followed her and proceeded to drag her to the bedroom where he attacked and raped her. A short while later L.S's husband returned and heard his wife screaming.  He ran into the bedroom to find the man attacking his wife.  The man ran out of the house with L.S's husband chasing him but he got away.  Both of these women had identified Thomas Schiro independently as their attacker when his pictures had hit the paper for the Laura Luebbehusen murder.  Prosecutors found G.G. rather quickly but it took them longer to find L.S. and they also wanted to find and ex girlfriend of Schiro's that had testified at his trial.  They felt they needed all of this combined to secure a conviction but time would be running out.  Finally, in May of 2005, feeling they had all of their ducks in a row prosecutors charged Schiro with a Class A felony rape charge as well as a Class A felony criminal deviance for each of the attacks on the women.  

Schiro was finally back in court and on trial in August of 2006.  In the end the jury found Schiro guilty for the charges when it came to L.S. but not guilty for the attack on G.G.  To be honest I could not get a clear picture as to why this was the case.  For all I know there could have been some sort of legality that prevented them from finding him guilty in G.G's case, but I cannot fully say.  At any rate he was found guilty at least for one and was sentenced to an additional 40 years.  Of course he appealed this conviction, and I have to say that some of what he said in his appeal was correct. One of his biggest arguments surrounded the fact that the prosecutors knew about the rapes at the time of his murder conviction but had chosen not to prosecute him.  He had a valid point in stating that had they prosecuted him in 1981 the sentences would have ran con-currently and technically his 60 years for murder would have lasted longer, securing his release in 2007.  He argued that the prosecutors purposely did not file charges in 1981 and only did so in 2005 in order to keep him from being released.  He was absolutely right in this argument.  They did know in 1981, they did decide not to prosecute then, and they did file in 2005 so they could keep him in jail. However, they did nothing illegal.  As the court pointed out, just because prosecutors have information on a crime they do not have to file it immediately as they have the right to wait until they have enough information to secure a conviction.  Secondly they pointed out that to prosecute him in 1981 for the rapes would have not only been a waste of taxpayer's money but an all but useless move considering he had been given the death penalty. He had also argued that by waiting to file the charges for so long he had been prevented from presenting witnesses, specifically his parents who by 2006 when the trial began had either died or were in ill health.  The court disagreed on that stating that while his parents may have been able to provide him an alibi or information for the rape of G.G., their testimony was not pertinent to the case against L.S. and since he was found not guilty in the case of G.G. it did not matter.  He argued many other things, including the fact that his "autobiography" was used in the trial as well as that a picture of L.S. with her disabled daughter had influenced the jury.  The court denied all of his points and upheld the conviction and sentence.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections website Thomas Schiro is scheduled to be released in June of 2021.  I did not find information pertaining to if Atlanta Georgia has, or is considering filing charges for the murder that occurred in their jurisdiction. In fact, the only thing I could confirm on that was that there was in fact a woman who was beaten and raped in a park, just as Schiro had proclaimed in his "autobiography," and per his MO a young child was present.  They also claimed that Schiro's wallet was found at the scene of the crime.  When he got the death sentence Atlanta had not only thought that it would have been a waste of money to prosecute him for the murder, they also felt that it would have been unwarranted trauma on a child that had already suffered enough.  I do not know if their attitude has changed over the years, but I surely hope so!

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