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‘I’ve never seen anything as bad, as evil, and as disgusting’: Judge unloads on hitman who killed mother, 7-year-old son, and family dog

Richard Eugene Stoner (Virginia Beach Police Dept.)

Richard Eugene Stoner (Virginia Beach Police Dept.)

A judge in Virginia excoriated a man who killed a 29-year-old mother and her 7-year-old son as part of a murder-for-hire scheme allegedly masterminded by the woman’s estranged husband nearly two decades ago.

Circuit Judge Steven Frucci on Monday handed down the maximum penalty of four life sentences without the possibility of parole plus an additional 63 years to Richard Eugene Stoner for the 2004 murders of 29-year-old Lois Schmidt and her young son, Jonathan Vetrano, authorities confirmed to Law&Crime.

Stoner pleaded guilty in February to aggravated murder, two counts of first-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, burglary, conspiracy, arson of an occupied dwelling, four counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony, and torture/mutilate a dog causing death, according to the Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

Stoner told authorities he was paid $10,000 by Schmidt’s estranged husband, Christopher Schmidt, while the two were in a “highly contentious” divorce and custody battle over their infant daughter. At the time, Stoner was married to Christopher Schmidt’s first cousin.

Judge Frucci unleashed on Stoner during Monday’s sentencing hearing, saying that the killer’s confession “read like a horror story” and that even the maximum sentence was likely insufficient punishment, the DA’s office said in a press release.

“These actions were so evil and so egregious, and the loss so incalculable. I’ve never seen anything as bad, as evil and as disgusting as these actions were, Mr. Stoner,” Frucci said, according to a report from the Virginian-Pilot.

According to the paper, before he was sentenced, the defendant said:

“This crime is so far outside my character. It’s hard for even me to comprehend it was me. I feel horrible about this crime. I don’t know what happened. It eats me alive.”

According to court documents obtained by Law&Crime, Stoner drove to Virginia Beach on the morning of June 28, 2004, and staked out Lois Schmidt’s home for about 45 minutes to ensure she was the only person home. Using a detailed plan provided by Christopher Schmidt, he then lured her into the garage by tripping the circuit breaker.

Louis Schmidt entered the garage with her 7-year-old son by her side, leaving Stoner briefly confused. He believed she was alone in the home.

“As he was stopped trying to figure out what to do, a dog came out. This surprised him as Schmidt had told him there were no dogs in the house. Stoner shot the dog, who later died. Lois screamed,” the Stipulation of Facts states. “Stoner shot her in the chest as she was standing near the front door. Jonathan was now on the couch witnessing what had just happened to his mother and dog.”

Louis Schmidt’s brother was also in the home and came out from his bedroom to see the commotion. Stoner shot him once in the chest and once in the shoulder. He then fired a third shot — meaning to “permanently disfigure” the brother — hitting him in the cheek. The brother survived but suffered permanent injuries.

“Stoner came out of the bedroom and shot Lois in the head to confirm she was dead. Jonathan was still seated on the couch. He told Jonathan to run, but Jonathan just sat there as if in shock. Stoner grabbed his bags from the garage and brought them in the house. He again told Jonathan to get out of the house. Jonathan still did not move,” the document states. “Jonathan looked at his mother’s lifeless body on the floor in the foyer and then at Stoner. Stoner determined that Jonathan, having seen what he saw, was going to be ‘messed up for the rest of his life’, so Stoner shot him point blank in the head, killing him instantly.”

Stoner then poured gasoline throughout the home and lit it on fire.

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Stoner had originally accepted a plea deal that required him to testify against Christopher Schmidt in exchange for prosecutors dropping the death penalty against him. However, when Virginia’s General Assembly abolished the death penalty in 2021, he withdrew from the plea deal.

Without Stoner’s “critical” testimony, prosecutors withdrew murder charges against Christopher Schmidt in 2021, according to a report from Norfolk CBS affiliate WTKR. Prosecutors are reportedly still trying to get Stoner’s admissions and statements to police used in a case against Christopher Schmidt.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.