VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A murder-for-hire case from 2004 was being heard in Virginia Beach Circuit Court last week and now charges have now been nolle prossed against Christopher Schmidt.
Tuesday morning’s motions hearing was over in a matter of minutes. Christopher Schmidt walked into the courtroom appearing stoic.
Prosecutors withdrew all charges against Schmidt, who’s essentially a free man. Schmidt was facing murder charges in connection to the 2004 murders of his ex-wife Lois Schmidt and her son Jonathan Vetrano.
“It's a sad case for everybody of course, and the victim's family but they have the perpetrator in custody. He has confessed,” said Schmidt’s Defense Attorney Lisa Broccoletti.
29-year-old Lois Schmidt and her seven-year-old son, Jonathan Vetrano, were killed in June 2004 at a home on Newcombe Road. In addition to their shootings, Lois’ brother, Morgan Bloise, was also shot; however, he survived. Two family dogs were also injured in the shooting and one of them died.
According to authorities, the home was on fire and when firefighters responded, they discovered there had been multiple shootings.
The case went cold for years. Then in 2018, Christopher Schmidt and accused hitman Richard Stoner were arrested. Court documents showed that one piece of evidence was a disc that contained a recording of Stoner calling the Cold Case Line.
Investigators said Stoner confessed to killing the mother and son pair, admitting Schmidt hired him to kill his ex.
Schmidt, however, maintains his innocence.
“Mr. Schmidt didn't have anything to do with this,” Broccoletti said. “He has been incarcerated for the last three years of his life away from his family. He basically really lost just about everything.”
The case took another turn last week after co-defendant Stoner’s guilty plea was withdrawn following a new state law overturning the death penalty and he stopped cooperating with the Commonwealth.
According to prosecutors, the accused hitman’s testimony is critical evidence to convict Schmidt and without it they cannot move forward.
Additionally, a judge has yet to rule whether Stoner’s previous testimony is admissible.
Tuesday, the Commonwealth said it made the difficult decision to nolle prosse the charges against Christopher Schmidt.
"His testimony is essential in a prosecution against Schmidt, and without it, the evidence in Schmidt’s case is insufficient to proceed at this time. Without a ruling on whether Stoner’s previous testimony can be offered as evidence in Schmidt’s trial, the Commonwealth cannot proceed to trial. It would be unfair to the victims’ family to proceed with a trial and risk double jeopardy. The investigation remains open, and the Commonwealth will re-initiate charges if sufficient evidence becomes available," the Commonwealth's Attorney office said.
Schmidt’s defense attorney called Stoner’s witness testimony into question.
“The witness himself, Stoner, I don't know that he's the most reliable,” said Broccoletti.
Broccoletti said Schmidt hopes for closure for the victim’s family and is now feeling a sense of relief that after serving three years behind bars, he will soon be able to walk free.
“It's been really tragic for him as well,” she said. “I think he just wants closure, really. He has had nothing to do with it. He's devastated as well.”
Prosecutors said they will reintroduce charges against Schmidt if they are able to use Stoner’s testimony.
Stoner’s trial likely won’t be held until next year.
The victim, Lois Schmidt’s father was inside the courtroom, but he was not interested in speaking with News 3 at this time.