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New Hearing Granted to Prisoner After Another Confesses to 1987 Murder

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After being sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder almost three decades ago, a man convicted of a Polk county murder has been given the chance to put new evidence before a court that he and his attorneys believe may prove to exonerate him.

Leo Robert Schofield, Jr. was 23 years old when he was sentenced to a lifetime of incarceration for the murder of his first wife Michelle Saum. Michelle was eighteen when, after leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant, she was stabbed twenty-six times. Her stepfather found her corpse three days later in a canal.

No physical evidence linked Schofield to the crime, but county prosecutors had testimony from witnesses alleging the sound of screaming coming from the Schofields’ residence and the sight of Leo carrying a “heavy object” from it, and that was sufficient to lead to a conviction of first-degree murder. Leo was sentenced in March 1989 and began serving his sentence early the next month at Hardee Correctional Facility in Bowling Green.

Leo’s defense team maintained at trial that several fingerprints within Michelle’s vehicle didn’t match either her or Leo. In 2009, and thanks to then-new technology, those fingerprints were identified as belonging to Jeremy Lynn “Bam Bam” Scott. Scott, who was then serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and armed robbery, told the court at a hearing in 2009 that he left the prints when he stole the stereo from Michelle’s car. The court believed Scott, and Leo went back to prison.

The current hearing came to be after Leo’s attorney contacted Scott asking Scott if he would speak with him. Although Scott would not sign an affidavit, he did tell a third disinterested attorney that he killed Michelle while high on prescription pills. In addition, former cellmate Paul Kline subsequently told investigators that Scott said in a discussion with him after the fingerprint evidence became public that he killed Michelle.

Polk County Circuit Judge J. Kevin Abdoney granted the hearing in question. A status conference was scheduled to take place earlier today.

The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been representing people charged with capital murder, felony drug charges, drunk driving, government fraud, and white-collar crimes for over a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.

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