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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 29th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 47

Trial begins for the suspected murderer of a Lompoc teacher

BY MATT FOUNTAIN

A San Luis Obispo man was suicidal, delusional, and not in control of his actions when he allegedly shot and killed his mother—a longtime Lompoc Valley teacher—at his apartment on Sept. 17, 2011, his defense attorney argued before 12 jurors.

But in opening statements in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Jan. 28, Deputy District Attorney Karen Gray argued that witness testimony will show Christopher Schumey was acting “very appropriate and very coherent” in contact with neighbors just prior to the shooting.

Christopher, 36, is facing charges of first-degree murder and assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon in the shotgun killing of Karen Schumey, 65, a teacher at Vandenberg Middle School.

During the first day of his trial, jurors heard from Christopher’s downstairs neighbor and viewed dash-cam footage taken from the patrol car of a responding officer, showing a shotgun blast raining down on officers from Christopher’s apartment window.

A long-haired and bearded Christopher sat quietly during the roughly five-hour-long hearing, appearing to nod off occasionally.

Gray set the stage with a description of a young man who began sinking into mental illness in 1999 during his senior year at U.C. Santa Cruz, where he was a film major, she said.

According to the prosecution, Christopher stole his father’s shotgun from a storage unit shared by the family and hid it in his apartment. In the early afternoon of Sept. 17, 2011, Gray alleged, Christopher and his mother had an argument in his apartment, leading neighbors to inquire. Christopher came to the door and assured them that everything was all right, according to testimony from former neighbor Heather Stewart.

Following the incident, according to prosecutors, Karen left the apartment briefly to calm the situation, and when she returned she was shot in the abdomen with a shotgun slug through the front door. Gray alleged that Christopher then reloaded the weapon, opened the door, and shot his mother again in the head.

“He was angry with her and the situation,” Gray said. “He wanted something to die.”

Christopher’s defense attorney, Pierre Blahnik, outlined his client’s long struggle with mental health issues, including a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, he said, and argued that Christopher was showing progress before work-related issues in the summer of 2011 led to a “complete psychiatric breakdown,” which included religious delusions and “prolonged grandiose fantasies.”

“After that, the wheels started falling off again, leading up to this terrible tragedy,” Blahnik said, adding that shortly thereafter Christopher unsuccessfully attempted suicide with his father’s shotgun, and began talking to people who weren’t there, drafting a celebrity murder list and writing bizarre letters to a number of actors and production companies.

“Evidence will show this is the world Christopher Schumey entered into on Sept. 17,” Blahnik said. He argued that following his mother’s departure from his apartment, Christopher placed the barrel of the shotgun in his mouth but couldn’t bring himself to follow through. When she returned, for a reason “neither he nor anyone else would be able to explain,” Blahnik argued, Christopher turned the barrel of the gun to the front door.

“Christopher Schumey loved his mother and would never do anything to harm her—if he was in his right mind,” Blahnik said.

Jurors also heard testimony from one of the first responding officers, SLOPD Officer Eric Lincoln, who was allegedly fired upon by Christopher as he pulled up in his patrol vehicle. The slug hit a nearby home.

Lincoln recalled on the stand how he jockeyed for position while a fellow officer talked Christopher into dropping the shotgun through the window and surrendering.

Testimony is expected to continue throughout the next week, with some 60 potential witnesses. Should Christopher be found guilty, he will then enter the sanity phase, where jurors will be asked to determine whether he was sane during the shooting.