The Strong Defense
The Strong Defense
Confession in 1987 Murder Cited in Motion to Set Aside Sentence of Man Convicted of the Slaying
Leo Schofield was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison in 1989. Almost three decades later another man has come forward claiming responsibility for the murder and has filed a motion with the relevant court asking to go on the record with his own confession.
On Tuesday, February 24, 1987 Michelle Saum Schofield left her job at a fast-food restaurant in her orange Mazda wagon, which was the last time anyone but the murderer saw her alive. Her empty car was discovered on Interstate 4 at Highway 559 in Lakeland two days later, and her battered corpse was found three days after that in a canal on Interstate 4 and Lakeland Hills Boulevard, seven miles from her vehicle.
Although no physical evidence tied Leo to the crime, he was still indicted. Despite the fact that a shorter sentence may have been available to him if he admitted guilt, he told a local newspaper a few years ago that he couldn’t bring himself to admit to a crime he did not commit. Instead he found himself on trial for premeditated murder, the most significant evidence against him being a witness testifying to screaming she claimed to hear emanating from their trailer and witnessing Leo transporting a heavy object outside of it. The state also introduced witnesses who testified to alleged domestic tensions between Leo and Michelle, but prosecutors offered no physical evidence linking Leo to the slaying.
Leo’s defense strategy rested on the several fingerprints belonging to neither Leo or Michelle found within the Mazda. Although Leo’s attorney asked the jury whether they wished to know to whom the prints belonged, his question remained unanswered and Leo found himself convicted of the crime.
The question of the fingerprints’ origin would remain open until technology could catch up while Leo, who turns 51 in December, waits in Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green. Finally in 2004 the FDLE tested the fingerprints and found that they matched those of Jeremy Lynn “Bam Bam” Scott.
Scott, now 47, has an impressive criminal résumé, boasting seven felony convictions for crimes including arson, armed robbery, grand theft, and battery of a law-enforcement officer. Scott was also convicted of murder in 1989, but it was for strangling to death a man after crushing his skull by slamming a grape juice bottle into it.
A year ago Schofield’s attorney Andrew Crawford contacted Scott at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City in hopes that he might provide new evidence on the matter. Scott agreed and, before a third disinterested attorney, admitted to Crawford that he committed the murder while in a drug-fueled haze. He also asked to relay to Schofield the message that he was sorry.
The confession has its problems, however. Although Scott volunteered for a polygraph test, he would not sign a sworn statement nor speak about the matter with a private investigator. According to the motion, Scott inquired as to any potential benefits he may receive as a result of his cooperation (none, as it turned out).
In any event, Crawford has filed the motion with a judge in Polk Circuit Court and is awaiting a ruling.
Bjorn Brunvand has been defending individuals against capital murder charges in Florida for over two decades. If you have been charged with murder in Tampa or surrounding areas, contact us immediately.