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Trial starts for man who hit wife with hatchet

Nov 18, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Whether Terry Schmuck intended to kill his estranged wife when he struck her with a hatchet on May 28 promises to be the focus of the man's trial this week.

Proceedings began on Monday and are scheduled to last until Friday.

The woman survived the at-tack, but authorities arrested Terry Schmuck and ultimately charged him with attempted first-degree murder, punishable by life in prison. A jury of 12 individuals will likely have the option of convicting Schmuck on that count, or of a lesser crime, such as attempted second-degree murder or aggravated assault.

Defense attorneys have indicated they agree with some of the facts prosecutors have presented, showing the trial may concentrate more on what crime was committed, rather than whether a crime was committed.

Other defenses, however, including an argument of self defense, also are possible.

Both sides of the case selected a jury and began opening statements Tuesday.

Arguments

The prosecution's theory of the case is simple: Schmuck and his wife, Cindy Schmuck, were going through a divorce, and on May 28 the defendant became so mad at her that he went over to her house in Kinnear and tried to kill her with a hatchet.

Defense attorneys argue Schmuck did not try to kill his wife when he struck her with the weapon.

Schmuck became upset on May 28 because his wife had served him with divorce papers, Fremont County deputy attorney Ember Oakley said in an opening statement.

"The evidence will show a man who is so angry ... that he decided he will kill her rather than have her leave him," Oakley said.

She would call witnesses and present other evidence showing Schmuck drove to his wife's home after dark after grabbing a hatchet, which he used to hack at the telephone wires on the outside of the residence, Oakley said.

The alleged victim was on the phone and heard the line go dead, so she locked the front door and retrieved a pistol before Schmuck broke down the front door, Oakley said

"Cindy heard him say as he busted his way through the door, 'I'm going to kill you...,'" Oakley said.

Schmuck walked through the house to his wife's bedroom where he hit her twice in the head with the hatchet, Oakley said. A doctor would testify Cindy Schmuck's skull was fractured, and the injury was life threatening, the prosecutor said.

The defendant's lawyer Dan Caldwell said Terry Schmuck went to the home that night to talk. Caldwell agreed Schmuck had a hatchet and broke the phone lines, but Caldwell said Schmuck said something different when he broke through the front door.

"He hollers 'Cindy, why are you doing the divorce that way?'" Caldwell said.

When Schmuck entered his wife's bedroom, she tried to shoot him, but the pistol was not loaded, Caldwell said. Schmuck heard the gun click.

"His first reaction is to push her ... and he did hit her in the head with the hatchet," Caldwell said.

The defense attorney insisted Schmuck only struck her once by holding the hatchet just below the head and thrusting it at her, rather than swinging it by the handle.

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