LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – In a trial that pitted claims of ongoing spousal abuse against a nightmarish murder scene, jurors sided with prosecutors, who believe Ashley Schutt had better exit routes from her troubled marriage than an 8-inch knife blade and ball-peen hammer.
After deliberating for 6 hours, jurors on Thursday night found Schutt, 29, guilty on all counts, ending a murder trial that lasted 2 weeks and raised the issue of battered person’s syndrome.
Judge Debra Turner on Friday sentenced Schutt to life in prison plus 35 years, meaning the Sterling native and call center worker who moved to Georgia for a better life won’t be eligible for parole until she’s nearly 60 years old.
Both sides agreed that Schutt stabbed her husband, former Morrison resident Greg Schutt, 30, some 38 times and bashed him with a hammer she kept beneath her pillow for protection.
Ashley married her husband immediately after high school in 2000, and shelved her studies at a Chicago nursing school to be with him. Prosecutors argued she should have left him before reaching the boiling point.
In the hours after the slaying, Ashley cooked up a fantastical story about armed intruders who raped her and killed Greg. The story fell apart after a rape exam proved she lied.
“As I indicated in closing arguments ... there are many other alternatives in this case if the relationship was as abusive as (Schutt) detailed,” Assistant District Attorney Stephen Fern said Friday.
The nature and number of wounds on Greg Schutt’s body, as well as his lack of defensive wounds, likely played a role in the jury’s decision, Fern said.
Fern noted that several co-workers and friends of Greg’s, who recalled the veterinary technician as a gentle giant with a soft spot for animals, ran “completely contrary” to descriptions given by defense witnesses, who painted Greg as domineering and violent.
“The lack of reporting from any of her friends, family or herself, despite multiple opportunities to do so, cast concern over the validity of her claims,” Fern said.
Defense attorney Thomas Clegg said the verdict packed such a wallop he basically walked out of the courtroom. He described his client, who sat attentively through 6 days of testimony, as “absolutely crestfallen.”
“All during the trial, we tried to emphasize the reason [Schutt] didn’t go to police is she believed no one would believe her. ... Now that fact has been confirmed,” Clegg said Friday. “She is a very fragile person at this time. I think this is an astonishingly difficult time for her.”
Clegg said he’ll appeal the ruling. He plans to file a motion for a new trial next week, though he hasn’t decided what the basis for the filing will be.
Georgia offenders sentenced to life in prison aren’t eligible for parole until they’ve served 30 years, according to State Board of Pardons and Parole guidelines.
In addition to murder, Ashley was convicted of aggravated assault, possession of a knife during the commission of a felony and two counts of making false statements.