By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO May 22, 2001 Almost two years ago, Anthony Schroedel broke into the home of Barbara Vogt in Eldred, stabbed her to death and critically injured her 11-year-old son, J.T.
Armed with a knife and carrying a flashlight, the gloved intruder was reportedly intent on committing more than burglary, as in 1986 he was convicted of sexual misconduct after his mother accused her son of raping her at least four times. (In 1991, Schroedel was also linked to a series of area burglaries.)
On June 21, 1999, around 4 a.m., Schroedel broke into Vogts home and was surprised to find J.T. home from a class trip.
In the ensuing struggle, Barbara Vogt was stabbed and slashed to death and her son severely injured by Schroedel. After fleeing the bloodsoaked scene, the killer attempted to burn his bloody clothes and took a shower actions that would go a long way to establishing premeditated intent at trial.
Last Thursday, Schroedel, 42, faced his judgment day before Sullivan County Court Judge Frank J. LaBuda.
Members of the victims family and relatives of the killer sat quietly on opposite sides of the courtroom gallery as a shackled Schroedel was led into the room by sheriffs deputies. Many of the law enforcement officers who conducted the investigation were also on hand to see Schroedel formally sentenced for his crimes.
This was as savage a crime, as bloody a crime, as vicious a crime as Ive ever seen in my 25-plus years in the DAs office, said Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen. The defendant went to rape Barbara Vogt, to sexually assault her. He singled that house out. He knew who she was, where she lived and what she looked like.
Lungen asked LaBuda to sentence Schroedel according to his April 5 plea before the court: the maximum on each count, with consecutive sentences where allowed by law.
Before LaBuda passed sentence on Schroedel, the killer pulled a piece of yellow-lined paper out of his shirt pocket, and in a barely audible, monotone, mumbling voice devoid of emotion, he read a statement to the court.
Schroedel was flanked by Mark B. Harris, first deputy of the Capital Defenders Office and deputy capital defender Matthew Alpern.
I am sorry and remorseful, and if I could take my life, I would give it to Barbara Vogt, he said. I know thats hard for the victims families, relatives and friends including my family, relatives and friends to forgive me for that terrible crime.
I know that I will not be forgiven for that terrible crime as long as I live . . . maybe someday when years go by, I might be forgiven . . . Im not expecting remorse from any of the victims families, my family and the judge. Thank you for all your time.
Judge LaBuda laid it on the line to Schroedel as he sentenced Vogts killer to life without parole, plus 107 years in prison.
Mr. Schroedel, theres no doubt in my mind that you are a criminal. I was aghast when I read the pre-sentence report where you attempted to describe the relationship with your mother and father as being good . . . you are the same person who 15 years ago raped your mother four times.
Today, your life is being spared solely out of respect for Barbara Vogt and her Johnny, added Judge LaBuda. You need to seek forgiveness from an authority higher than man for what you did at the Vogt residence.
You sought your victim out like the predator that you are, and you broke into the room and killed her. And but by the grace of God, you would have killed her son too, had he not escaped your criminal intent, said LaBuda seconds before he told Schroedel, You are kept in prison until the day that you die.
After Schroedel was led from the courtroom, DA Lungen and Sullivan County Sheriff Daniel Hogue held a brief press conference. Lungen had been set to seek the death penalty in the Schroedel case, but after reflection upon the impacts of putting J.T. on the stand to relive witnessing his mothers murder and the Vogt familys opposition on religious grounds to the death penalty, Lungen decided to accept a plea bargain that spared the killers life.
In cases like this, you must consider the family and survivors, said Lungen. This is a guy who should never see the light of day . . . this was a sexually motivated contact, make no mistake about that.
He did not anticipate the fierce struggle that Barbara put up, added Lungen. He found himself fighting with a woman who was fighting for her life and the life of her son.
According to Sheriff Hogue, he was pleased with the investigative work performed by his department, the State Police and the DAs Office, and even more so the decision that spared J.T. from having to relive the crime on the witness stand.
He would have been dead if he didnt get out of there, said Hogue. Every morning when that little kid wakes up, hes reminded of what happened when he sees the scars on his arms.
LaBuda has served 25 years as a prosecutor, defense attorney and judge. In his four years on the county court bench, he has sentenced three people to life in prison without the possibility of parole: two people in the Christopher Gardner torture/murder case and Anthony Schroedel for the murder of Barbara Vogt (and associated charges).
This was a case where justice cried out, said Judge LaBuda. This was a horrific case of murder . . . this was a premeditated act. . . . The person we were dealing with is a despicable person . . . I have nightmares in my own mind about what the boy was seeing.
Judge LaBuda said he didnt detect any true remorse on the part of Schroedel as he read his prepared statement to the court, but when he listened to the judge pronounce a sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole, the light went on.
I took away his hope, said LaBuda. If you take away a persons hope, in philosophy youve taken away a persons life.