Jury impasse on first degree murder charge

OKEECHOBEE — At 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30, a six-person jury, could not reach a verdict on a first degree murder charge facing a 52-year-old Okeechobee man, but were able to convict him on other charges he was facing.

David Schwendenmann,52

David Anthony Schwendenmann, was arrested Sept. 14, 2016, on charges of first degree murder, aggravated battery on a pregnant person, robbery, fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer and attempted first degree murder of law enforcement officer with firearm. He was convicted on the robbery, aggravated battery on a pregnant person and the fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

The attempted first degree murder of law enforcement officer was dropped to attempted manslaughter of law enforcement officer and the jury was at an impasse on the first degree murder charge, resulting in a mistrial. That case is to be scheduled for a later date.

Schwendenmann’s sentencing hearing for his convicted charges is due to be set in mid October.

The criminal trial began on Tuesday, Aug. 28, with Schwendenmann represented by Assistant Public Defender’s Stanley Glenn and Armand Murach from the 19th Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office. Prosecuting the case on behalf of the State of Florida were 19th Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorneys Ashley Albright and Don Richardson.

Presiding over the criminal case was 19th Circuit Court Judge, Michael C. Heisey.

Mr. Albright opened to the jury, “‘I just shot my wife, would you like to go in and see the body?’ Just like that, one of the first things that this man said to his friend and neighbor.”

He repeated: “I just shot my wife, would you like to go in and see the body.”

Mr. Glenn told the jury, “Your job is to critically analyze what you’re going to see and hear. What you won’t hear is any evidence of premeditation.”

According to the case presented by the State, Schwendenmann shot and killed his significant other of 19 years, 48-year-old wife Angela Marie Schwendenmann on July 29, 2016.

He then loaded up three shotguns from inside the house and into a blue Toyota Camry and was met by his neighbor, who he confided in about his recent doings, before he went to his daughter and her fiancé’s home.

As Schwendenmann was nearing the residence, the daughter’s fiancé testified that he could hear Schwendenmann’s vehicle approaching the home with a flat spare tire. Schwendenmann then, according to the fiancé’s testimony, “was wasted” and came inside the house and, “told us he killed Angie and if we didn’t believe him, we could see for ourselves.”

“Today is the day I’m going to die,” stated Schwendenmann according to the fiancé’s testimony.

Shortly after Schwendenmann’s statement to the couple, an argument ensued which led to a physical altercation in the home. According to the fiancé’s testimony, Schwendenmann began to asphyxiate his daughter and demanded the keys from the fiancé to their white Ford Explorer. The fiancé then testified that Schwendenmann took the keys out of his hand and left the home. After Schwendenmann’s departure, the fiancé was able to wave down law enforcement and inform them of what had occurred. A ‘be on the lookout’ was issued for the white Ford Explorer and Schwendenmann.

Then Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Deputy, now Detective, Jose Garduno received a call for service in the location of County Road 15-A. That call for service was placed by the roommate of Schwendenmann’s neighbor, who was apparently still in shock at the time after hearing Schwendenmann’s confession and his visual affirmation of peering into the trailer to find Angela in a blood pool. “Everybody on duty or coming off duty responded to the location due to the nature of the call,” testified Det. Garduno. According to testimony, armed deputies entered Schwendenmann’s residence and found Angela in a pool of blood and the television volume was loud.

Just afterward, a vehicle matching the description of Schwendenmann’s was located by then OCSO Detective Corporal, Rosemary Farless, who has since retired. Cpl. Farless testified she was on patrol in her unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe at the time she located the suspected vehicle. She then chose to follow the Explorer from the Veterans of Foreign Wars building located on U.S. 441 Southeast to King’s Bay on U.S. 441 Southeast, a distance of approximately one quarter to one-half mile. After she ran the vehicle’s tag, she called for a marked unit to pursue the vehicle. Lights and sirens activated, the marked unit pursued the Explorer from King’s Bay to Nubbin Slough with Schwendenmann reaching speeds of approximately 80 miles per hour and traveling in the middle of the road. Schwendenmann continued, according to testimony, to run vehicles off the road from Nubbin Slough to Real Life Children’s Ranch, on U.S. 441 Southeast, a distance of nearly two miles.

At this point in time, Detective Garduno, relocated himself from Schwendenmanns’ home to near Brother’s RV Park on U.S. 441 Southeast and was given permission to deploy stop sticks to stop the Explorer in an effort to apprehend Schwendenmann. As he approached the stop sticks, Schwendenmann made an apparent effort to stop the vehicle before running into them. After the vehicle came to an initial halt, Detective Garduno’s testimony was that Schwendenmann made direct eye contact with him and reached for a gun located between the driver and passenger seat, stating: “The individual had a 1,000 yard stare making eye contact with me and reached for a long gun between the driver and passenger seats.”

Schwendenmann was shot at least three times by members of law enforcement.
Detective Garduno stated, “I did not want to give him the opportunity to get me on target and to pull the trigger.”

After law enforcement’s shooting of Schwendenmann, the Explorer continue to roll into an electrical pole which stopped the SUV ultimately and when they extracted Schwendenmann from the vehicle, “a bunch of live ammunition, shotgun shells, fell out of his pockets.” An audio and video recording depict footage of emergency medical services providing aid to Schwendenmann after having been shot.

In the video, Schwendenmann can be seen strapped to a stretcher and heard saying, “The heart is right here, you missed it. You’re lucky I didn’t get my shot off, because I don’t miss. I’m a professional.”

An audio recorded statement of Schwendenmann was taken by Cpl. Farless at Raulerson Hospital. In the statement, Schwendenmann is heard mentioning that his wife was seriously considering a divorce, to which he responded “she (Angela) was not going to get out of the marriage alive.” When asked in the audio statement by law enforcement if he was serious about that statement, Schwendenmann answered, “Yes.” However, he also claimed, “I don’t even remember getting the gun,” and that “After I got expletive deleted drunk, she got angry and began hitting and cussing at me.” During the recording, Mr. Richardson is heard asking Schwendenmann about firearms and if any possessed a safety mechanism.

Schwendenmann answered the inquiry stating, “I know the 12 gauge for a fact does.”

OCSO Crime Scene Technician Jackie Moore was able to locate one spent Winchester 12 gauge shotgun cartridge. She also testified, like Detective Garduno, that when she entered the home, “The television was on and very loud,” and when examining the Explorer noted, “All three firearms were loaded and ready to fire, with one having the hammer cocked.”

When asked by Mr. Albright, “Was the cartridge found in the trailer fired from the Ithaca shotgun?” a firearms examiner from the Indian River Crime Laboratory testified simply “yes.”

Schwendenmann in summary of the video, claimed to not remember shooting Angela but could recall being shot himself by law enforcement.

Conflicting testimony was presented on part of the defense of Schwendenmann by a witness who was outside of his residence located at Brother’s RV Park. The individual testified that he saw two members of OCSO pull in and set up the stop sticks. The witness said he saw Detective Garduno positioned behind his patrol car with his weapon drawn.

According to the testimony, Schwendenmann stopped the Explorer before it reached the stop sticks. When asked if Schwendenmann’s hands were on the steering wheel when shot by law enforcement replied, “absolutely.” The witness testified that he spoke to law enforcement two days after the shooting incident and reported the same information.

When cross examined by Mr. Richardson, “Was Garduno better positioned to see the driver of the vehicle than you were?” the witness answered, “My vision works fine and all I know is his hands never left the steering wheel.”

Judge Heisey inquired as to whether Schwendenmann would like to testify on his behalf as a witness or would like to exercise his right to remain silent to which Schwendenmann responded, “No, because I don’t remember anything.”

The medical examiner testified that the shotgun slug which Angela was shot with traveled from the, “right side of her face, under the ear into the right neck tissue, from front to back and slightly from right to left.” The examiner said that Angela would have suffered “immediate unconsciousness,” and “death within one minute or shortly after.”

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