In a Georgia park, romance is in the air as a husband patiently waits for his wife to arrive for a little rendezvous. But for Stacey and Richard Schoeck, Feb. 14, 2010 was the bloodiest of Valentines.
Richard was Stacey's fifth husband. Stacey's cousin Connie Hearne recalls Richard was the best in her stable of husbands. In fact Richard even adopted two of Stacey's three sons.
"Richard was a great father to them," said Hearne. "He brought a lot to the table when it came to the marriage."
The 46-year-old Richard Shoeck had a passion for hot-air ballooning, but most of all he loved scouting and was a den leader for his boys' Cub Scout troop.
Stacey, the breadwinner for the family, worked as head administrator for a large medical and surgical practice in Dekalb County, Georgia.
"She would work her butt off to make sure that her kids had everything they wanted and needed," said Hearne.
But there was always time for love. On the last night of Richard's life he was cooking Valentine's Day dinner for Stacey and her grandparents, an elderly couple who required round-the-clock medical attention.
"At that point, Stacey and Richard had valentines to exchange for each other and gifts and cards. She made the decision that they would exchange them in the park," said Hall County Sheriff's Lt. Dan Franklin. "She told him to go ahead and meet her there because the nurse that was relieving her was late and so she sent Richard ahead and told him to wait on her there."
They made their way in separate cars along the dark and winding road. Richard arrived first. But someone else was there lurking in the shadows.
"It's a very secluded place, there was no pavement, there were no lights, so it's a very eerie place, especially at night," said Lt. Franklin.
Thirty minutes later Stacey pulled up and saw Richard's body punctured with bullets lying in blood and dirt.
"Two shots to the abdomen, one to the chest and then two to the face, which is overkill," said Lt. Franklin.
When cops arrive, they quickly rule out robbery as a motive.
"We when we searched his truck we found there was $40 in the center console," said Lt. Franklin. "His watch was on, his wedding ring, his wallet was on him. If it were a robbery then there was about a $40,000 truck sitting there idling that they could have jumped in and taken."
One of the first to the scene, Lt. Franklin says from the get-go, something just didn't smell right. The shooting appeared to be too over the top to be random.
"Richard's just a regular guy who's unarmed and he gets there and he's comfortable enough to get out of this truck and approach the person who ultimately shot him to death," said Franklin.
And in the darkened night, the mystery killer is already gone by the time Stacey says she arrived at the secluded spot. Detectives scour the crime scene for evidence, but there isn't much to go on, but soft dirt that absorbed Richard's blood seems to speak volumes to investigators, telling a chilling story.
"The soil at the scene was soft, it was muddy and it was very conducive to preserving tire impressions," said Franklin.
Imprinted in the wet soil were three sets of tire tracks.
"We saw Richard's impressions, we saw the impressions that Stacey's Ford Explorer made, but there was a third set of impressions that came in from the park you could follow them from the road," said Franklin. "So that told us that the vehicle that left those impressions were there before Richard got there and then left presumably after he was dead."
Cops believed the tire tracks had to be those of the killer, but matching them to a getaway car would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Or would it?
Before cops can worry about how to make a match, a frantic Stacey Schoeck makes a shocking admission.
"Before we left the scene she started telling us about an affair that she'd been having with a guy named Juan Reyes," said Lt. Dan Franklin.
"I am in, you know, I'm in deep with Juan," Stacey told detectives in a recorded interrogation.
"That affair had been going on for several years, immediately that sparked our attention and got us looking at Juan as a prime suspect," said Lt. Franklin.
Juan Reyes had been working directly in Stacey's own office, despite the fact he had no medical experience. She hired Juan as a surgical assistant at the clinic she ran. She told police Reyes had previously worked as a security guard at a swanky hotel.
It all appears to be a classic crime of passion: A jealous boyfriend wants Stacey's husband out of the picture.
"When we asked her if she thought Juan was responsible, she said she didn't want to think that he was responsible, but she didn't know," said Lt. Franklin.
Police learn Juan Reyes is a divorced father with a bunch of kids, and he's hard up for cash.
Stacey showered Reyes with goodies: paying for his truck and cellphone, taking him on romantic getaways. Juan even lived in one of Stacey's homes. And there was a secret apartment love nest.
Juan Reyes became suspect number one in Richard Schoeck's murder. Cops nab him the next day at his office. At the sheriff's station, he even agrees to talk to detectives without a lawyer present. He denies having anything to do with the murder.
Detectives hammer Reyes with questions. He agrees to a polygraph test. The results are inconclusive.
Juan Reyes tells cops that despite his divorce, he was actually trying to reconcile with his unemployed ex-wife. He viewed Stacey as the means to an end.
Did Richard know? Was he possibly trying to prevent this high-priced affair? Detectives keep digging deep. Where was Juan Reyes the night of Valentine's Day? To check his alibi detectives soon chat with his ex-wife, who tells them his relationship with Stacey was too close, but confirmed his alibi. With his whereabouts confirmed, Juan Reyes was cleared.
Investigators know there's at least one clue found at the bloody scene, a mystery set of tire tracks discovered in the wet soil. Cops are searching, obsessively trying to match the brand of tire to the tread marks, and a killer.
They determine the tire they're looking for was a Goodyear Integrity. But there are countless cars using Goodyear tires in the area. Searching could be an overwhelming task, and just as cops were about to lose hope, an unexpected tip quickly leads cops to wonder if Stacey wanted to rub out her fifth husband.
"An IT technician at the spine clinic where Stacey worked called us," said Lt. Dan Franklin.
His job was to clear out junk email from employee accounts.
"He said 'When I went through Stacey's computer I went to go ahead and empty her spam out of her inbox, but her inbox was completely empty for Friday, Saturday and Sunday,' the day of the murder," said Franklin. "He said that's very unusual, and he said 'But I have backups of all of those if you guys would like to have them,' and we said 'Absolutely.'"
Detectives immediately obtain a warrant for all of Stacey's emails. After scouring 4,000, two of them raise eyebrows. One of them written a few weeks before the murder, to a bank.
"Request to transfer $8,902 from a real estate account that the doctor's office had into the personal account of a lady named Lynitra Ross," said Lt. Franklin.
Lynitra Ross was a medical assistant at the practice where Stacey worked. Curiously there was another money transfer to Ross just days before that bloody Valentine's Day.
"The Friday before the murder there's another request through Sun Trust for another transfer for $1,100, and that went through also to Lynitra Ross's personal account."
Cops soon learn that Lynitra was renting a home from Stacey. They immediately pay Lynitra a visit, who tells them she received about $8,900 for repairs on the rental house.
"Lynitra Ross said that she could provide repairs and for the water line repair," said Lt. Franklin.
"And the we got another leak, a main water valve leak so she paid for half of that, so it's been about 10,000," said Lynitra in the recorded interview.
Another clue surfaces, this time from Stacey's cousin Connie Hearne.
"My grandparents' car, the Impala," said Hearne.
"Connie Hearne was the person that was the most concerned about the car and was pretty insistent we take a look at it," said Lt. Franklin.
The Chevrolet Impala was a car given to Stacey to sell, with the money to be used for her grandparents' medical expenses. But strangely enough, the Impala would go missing for a few weeks out of Stacey's driveway, then suddenly pop back up.
What didn't appear was the money.
"Stacey had claimed she gotten I believe $14,000 out of it, but my grandparents never saw the money out of it. I thought that was weird," said Connie Hearne.
And even more suspicious, investigators find the Impala parked at Lynitra Ross's house -- with Goodyear Integrity tires on it.
Who was driving the Impala the night Richard was murdered?
"There was evidence at the scene based on the layering tire impressions that the offender lay in wait for Richard," said Lt. Franklin.
On a hunch, Franklin investigates cellphone records.
"My thought process is, 'Is he gonna sit there and twiddle his thumbs, or what's he gonna do, or he gonna make a phone call?' Lot of people text, constantly," said Lt. Franklin.
Franklin subpoenaed phone records made around the time of the murder, from something called a "tower dump."
"When you make a phone call your number, the number you dialed, the date and the time and the duration of the call are all captured at the tower. And that information is saved at the tower," said Lt. Franklin.
The tower serviced four major carriers, thousands of pages of records, but the dogged investigator had an idea: Compare the numbers from the tower dump to the numbers in Stacey's contact list.
And see if a match comes up.
"I had to find a way -- I had to teach myself how to do this," said Lt. Franklin. "About an hour into that search I found a number that was in Stacey's phone that had made a call from Belton Bridge Park or the tower that services Belton Bridge Park on the night of the murder, at about 8:40 p.m.," said Franklin. "So this phone call at 8:40 was very compelling."
The phone number attached to that call was listed in Stacey's contacts as a guy named "Reggie," also known as "Mr. Results."
Even more compelling was the number that Reggie called.
"So I went back and looked and I should've recognized the number because it was already in my notes because it was Lynitra Ross," said Lt. Franklin. "So at 8:40 p.m. on February 14, whoever Reggie is, who is known to Stacey because he's in her cellphone contact list called Lynitra Ross from the park."
But who is "Mr. Results?"
Lt. Franklin Googled him the next day and found Reggie is Reginald Coleman, a personal trainer and former semiprofessional boxer who held boot camp sessions at Stacey's office.
"At that point things started coming together because we were already looking at a murder for hire and this really kind of solidified that this was the third part of the triangle because we had suspected Stacey was the linchpin, Lynitra Ross received money in the weeks leading up, and now this was our third person that we felt was involved," said Franklin.
The clues have investigators thinking that Stacey Schoeck is in deep, and possibly the mastermind orchestrating the murder-for-hire of her fifth husband Richard Schoeck. But do they have enough to make a charge?
"Reggie makes a phone call from the park the night of the murder at 9:40 p.m. and we felt that call was to let Lynitra know that it was done," said Lt. Franklin.
And then Franklin uncovers a series of bone-chilling texts.
"Three minutes after that phone call Lynitra texted Stacey and said 'Forgot to tell you I'm coming in late tomorrow. By the way Happy Valentine's Day.' And it turns out that the 'Happy Valentine's Day' was the signal from Lynitra to Stacey that Richard was dead and that she could go find him," said Lt. Franklin.
Lt. Franklin soon scoured the banking records of Stacey Schoeck, Lynitra Ross and Reginald Coleman, revealing thousands of dollars intermingling among different accounts.
"Reggie's payment for the murder was $10,000 in cash," said Franklin. "Lynitra's payment for being the person that distributed money was that Stacey was going to deed a house to live in rent-free forever."
Finally the last pieces of this sordid puzzle are coming together.
"We're looking at a murder for hire," said Franklin. "We had to bring in the money element and so once we had that with the financial records we're ready to move forward with the arrests."
The day is long in coming. But cops can now make their move and capture Stacey Schoeck.
"The operation was called 'Operation Tangled Web' that was a huge coordinated effort, a huge team effort," said Lt. Franklin. "It took a lot of planning. We served seven search warrants in four different counties, three arrests warrants, all in one day.
Their biggest challenge was synchronizing the arrests so that the murderous players wouldn't tip each other off.
First to go down was Reggie, then Lynitra is nabbed at a traffic stop, and police then confidently swoop in on Stacey at the location where so much of her planning took place, at her office.
"Somebody in that office told Stacey the police were there and to run," said Lt. Franklin. "And so Stacey retreated into the hospital and basically got herself to a place where she was inside a room that only had card access. So we couldn't get to her."
It didn't take long for police to find her barricaded in that room. She eventually surrendered.
Finally, three months after the bloody Valentine's Day murder of Richard Schoeck, Lynitra, Reggie and Stacey face some harsh questions.
In the interrogation room, Lynitra Ross plays the innocent bystander card. Reggie has his own tactic: denial.
Cops say Lynitra and Reggie agreed to the murder plot, all for the money. But the burning question is, why did Stacey want her husband dead?
In a stunner, Stacey Schoeck tells cops that Richard was molesting her kids. Stacey's claim is based on something she says one of the kids told her. Stacey tells investigators she was molested as a kid. So to protect her boys she wanted Richard killed. She confided in her work buddy Lynitra Ross.
"And I told her that I didn't want the police, I didn't want a divorce I just wanted him dead if somebody was molesting my kids," said Stacey Schoeck in the interrogation.
According to Stacey, Lynitra told her she knows the guy for the job: Her sometime boyfriend and father of her child, Reggie "Mr. Results" Coleman.
"And I was like 'Reggie? Really?' And she said 'Yeah, that's what he does, that's how he supplements his income. He does jobs,'" Stacey said in the interrogation.
Stacey tells cops Lynitra arranged a meeting where they cooked up a plan to murder Richard Schoeck in cold blood.
"Then he said, 'So I hear you need some help getting something done?' And I was like 'Well, maybe.' I told him I have a strong suspicion that I think he's messing with my kids, and then I was like 'How much cash?' And he was like 'Well I was thinking around 10,000,' I was like 'OK,'" Stacey said in the recorded interrogation.
To sweeten the deal Stacey agreed to give Reggie her grandparents' Impala. Lynitra would get the house she was renting from Stacey.
A week later all three went to scout out the crime scene at Belton Bridge Park.
"He was like 'Yeah this is a perfect place,' and he even made some comment like, 'I might have to use this place more often,'" Stacey told detectives in the recorded interrogation.
But the night of the murder, Reggie botched things up.
"Stacey Shoeck wanted to set it up to make it look like a robbery. In fact she was very angry because the victim's watch wasn't taken, his money wasn't taken, the truck that Richard Schoeck drove to the scene, were not taken to make it look like a robbery," said Hall County District Attorney Darragh Lee.
And that's not all Stacey says Reggie screwed up. Richard Schoeck was shot three times in the chest and twice in the face.
"It was supposed to be one shot to the head. I said 'I don't want him to suffer, I don't want him to see anything,'" Stacey said in the interrogation.
As for the molestation story, in the end police learned Stacey's son admitted Richard never laid a finger on him.
"He said 'No,' he said 'I'm sorry I exaggerated,' and he said 'I'm sorry that I said those things, I blew those things out of proportion, mom,'" said Stacey in the interrogation.
"Her son she said later told her that the comment that he had made didn't have anything to do with anything like that, but rather he was a little bit more restrictive then she was on what they could do as children," said D.A. Lee.
Stacey Schoeck later revealed a different and supposed real reason she ordered the hit on her husband. Now she claimed she feared losing custody of the kids if she and Richard divorced.
"Ultimately I think her motive was just to live a life free of Richard, and this was in her eyes the only way to make this happen," said Lt. Dan Franklin.
"Stacey Schoeck was controlling and conniving and manipulative," said D.A. Lee. "She used people to the extent that she needed them and beyond that, they just didn't matter."
Lee says the trio thought they committed the perfect murder and that they could easily outsmart small-town cops. But they were wrong.
"They just thought that 'This is not Metro Atlanta, they're just a bunch of rednecks who simply weren't going to be able to find out what happened' -- but they did," said D.A. Lee.
With so much evidence against them, Stacey and Reggie pleaded guilty and were convicted of malice murder. Lynitra stood trial but was convicted of the same charge. All three will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Since her conviction, Stacey has kept busy behind bars. Her family says she has found God and is now studying to become an ordained minister.
Her three boys are now grown. Two of them are out of high school. The youngest lives with his biological father.