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Randy Schoenwetter v. State Of Florida

Randy Schoenwetter v. State Of Florida

Randy Schoenwetter v. State Of Florida

Supreme Court of Florida


No. SC04-53







[April 27, 2006]


We have on appeal the judgments and sentences of the trial court finding Randy Schoenwetter guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and imposing sentences of death. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the convictions and sentences.

Procedural and Factual History

Randy Schoenwetter was indicted on August 29, 2000, for first-degree murder in the death of Virginia Friskey, first-degree murder in the death of Ronald Friskey, attempted first-degree murder of Haesun Friskey, and armed burglary of a dwelling. Before trial, Schoenwetter filed several pretrial motions, which included a motion to suppress statements and admissions, a motion to suppress evidence, and a motion to disqualify the trial judge. These pretrial motions were all denied. Schoenwetter wrote a letter to the court dated February 17, 2003, confessing his guilt and indicating that he wished to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. The trial court held a status hearing on February 26, 2003, where the defendant, against the advice of his attorneys to remain silent and after the trial court's cautionary instruction, advised the court that he did in fact write the letter and that he did wish to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. The defense attorneys advised the court that they intended to have the defendant evaluated later that week to determine his competency.

Prior to the entry of his plea on March 5, 2003, the defense attorneys advised the court that a psychologist had met with the defendant and had determined the defendant was competent. The defense attorneys also announced to the court that, against their advice, the defendant wished to enter a plea to all of the charges. The court conducted a plea colloquy, advising the defendant of the consequences of his pleas and the rights he would give up by entering the pleas. After the State established a factual basis for the pleas, the court found that the defendant entered his pleas knowingly, freely, and voluntarily, and with a full understanding that he could receive two death sentences.

A penalty phase proceeding before a jury was held from September 15, 2003, to September 25, 2003. The State presented testimony from fourteen witnesses, including Theresa Lathrop (daughter and sister of the victims), Haesun Friskey, (the victim of the attempted murder), Dr. Qaiser (medical examiner), Dr. Imani (medical doctor), Ronald Larson and Denise Fitzgerald (two crime scene technicians), and Thomas House and David Butler (the investigating officers). The defense presented testimony from nine witnesses including Dr. Riebsame (forensic psychologist), Dr. Currie Prichard (neuropsychologist and clinical psychologist), Dr. Joseph Wu (clinical director of Brain Imaging Center), Deborah Roberts (mother of defendant), and Peter Siegel (expert on prison conditions).

The following facts were established during the penalty phase. At the time of the crimes, the Friskey family consisted of five people: the father, Ronald; the mother, Haesun; and the three children, Chad (eighteen years old), Theresa (sixteen years old) and Virginia, (ten years old). The defendant had known the Friskey family from childhood and attended the same karate school with the Friskey children. He was friends with Chad until Chad left for the Air Force a few months before the crime. Throughout his association with the family and before the crimes occurred, the defendant stayed overnight at the Friskey residence on a number of occasions.

On the night of August 11, 2000, Theresa Friskey had dinner with the family and went out until 11 p.m. Ronald, Haesun, and Virginia stayed home and watched television until they all fell asleep on the couch. By the time Theresa came home, they had all retired to their respective bedrooms.

At approximately 3 a.m. on August 12, 2000, the defendant left his apartment, where he lived with his mother. He rode his bicycle to the Krystal's Restaurant, where he was employed. After staying at Krystal's for a short time, he left on his bicycle and rode to the Friskey residence. According to the defendant's letter to the court confessing guilt, he decided to go to the Friskey residence so that he could force one of the Friskey daughters, Theresa, age sixteen, or Virginia, age ten, to have sex with him.

Schoenwetter arrived at the Friskey residence at approximately 5 a.m. He parked his bicycle on the back driveway of the residence and walked up to the back porch. He used a box cutter to cut open the screen and enter the porch. He then managed to push open the sliding glass door from the porch into the house just enough to slip through. There was a stick in the sliding door which only allowed the door to be opened twelve inches. After entering the house, he walked directly into the kitchen and armed himself with a large serrated kitchen knife from one of the drawers. He then walked down the hallway where the three bedrooms were located.

The first door he approached was to Theresa's bedroom; it was locked. He then peeked inside the bedroom on the opposite side of the hall and saw the parents asleep in their bed. He knew, based upon his previous overnight visits to the Friskey home, that the parents were heavy sleepers. He then entered Virginia's bedroom, which was directly across the hall from the parents' bedroom and next to Theresa's bedroom.

During his taped confession, Schoenwetter said he entered Virginia's room and began looking around. He said he never touched her body. While he was in her room, Virginia woke up and began to shriek. He put his hand over her mouth, threatened her with a knife, and told her to be quiet. She continued to shriek, she then recognized him, and said his name, Randy. He started to leave the room, but the mother came into the room and grabbed him. The father came into the room and tackled him. After struggling with the parents for a short time, he managed to break loose. Instead of leaving the house, he decided to go back to Virginia's bed and kill her because she had recognized him and could identify him. He stabbed her on her bed. After he stabbed her, the father tackled him. He then struggled with both parents until he managed to break loose again. The defendant then left the house the same way he came in, got on his bike, and rode home. After he arrived home, he took a shower, placed his clothes, shoes, the box cutter, and the knife inside a blue plastic bag, placed the blue bag inside a trash bag containing trash from his apartment, and put the trash bag in the dumpster.

According to Haesun Friskey, she awoke when she heard Virginia whining. She walked over to the doorway to her bedroom, where she could see directly into Virginia's room. She saw Virginia lying in her bed with the defendant standing over her, touching her body. The defendant turned and looked at Haesun and then made a stabbing motion toward Virginia. Virginia made a sound like she was taking in air. Haesun could remember her husband struggling with the defendant. However, as a result of the trauma she suffered, she could not remember anything else that happened.

At some point during the struggle, Theresa Friskey, who was asleep in her locked bedroom, awoke and heard a commotion. She came to her sister's room, where she saw a pile of people on the floor. She heard a man, whom she believed to be her father, tell her to call 911. She went back to her bedroom and called 911. While she was on the phone, she looked out of her bedroom window and saw a man leaving the house covered in blood. She later learned that this man was her father.

After the defendant fled the Friskey residence, Ronald Friskey managed to get up, leave the house, and walk next door to Terry and Julie Blythe's home. He knocked on the window near the front door and called out, â€

Description A decision regarding first-degree murder and imposing sentences of death.
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