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To Slain Courier, Family Was First

Md. Heist Victim's Devotion Recalled

By Jessica Valdez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 8, 2004; Page C01

Chrissy met him on the Internet five years ago, a skinny young sailor stationed in Iceland. He took a two-week leave to meet her in Maryland, and within a few months they were married. She liked to call him "Slim." He nicknamed her "Pookie."

Family members said he was always there for her, especially when she developed an incurable disease.

"His whole world revolved around Chrissy and Nate," a family member says of Schwindler, with Chrissy and Nate in 2003. (Family Photo)

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All of that ended early Friday afternoon when Jason L. Schwindler was shot three times and killed by hooded gunmen as they ambushed his company's armored car outside a Hyattsville bank. In addition to his wife, Christine Clemens Schwindler, 27, the 28-year-old courier left behind a 13-month old son, Nathan.

The robbers fled with an undisclosed amount of money from BB&T in the 3500 block of Hamilton Street. A car stolen from the scene -- a silver, four-door 2000 Pontiac Grand Am -- was found abandoned late Friday in Northeast Washington, police said. They said they have no suspects.

After the couple were married, Chrissy joined Schwindler in Iceland until he finished his Navy service in 2001. When they returned to Maryland, he took a job with Dunbar, an armored car company based in Hunt Valley.

Schwindler, a New York native, was a little over 6 feet tall with a mustache, short light-brown hair and glasses, and he had a playful nature. He worked hard, sometimes putting in as many as 25 or 30 hours of overtime each week.

"Jason was nothing but a big kid doing a man's job," said Chrissy's uncle, Randy Clemens.

The couple had planned to buy a home, but in August 2001, Chrissy received a diagnosis that she had Huntington's disease, a hereditary degenerative brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movement and loss of intellectual faculties and eventually leaves patients unable to care for themselves. There is no known cure.

She and Schwindler moved in with her parents in Crownsville and decided to have a baby despite her condition, as well as the realization that a child born to a person with Huntington's has a 50 percent chance of developing the disease, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Nathan was born last summer.

Swindler knew his wife's condition was "only going to go downhill," Randy Clemens said. (Chrissy declined an interview request.) "But he didn't leave. He stuck with her. . . . His whole world revolved around Chrissy and Nate."

When she developed the random compulsions that often accompany the disease -- in her case, a yearning for Starbucks coffee -- he would take her to get coffee before and after work. Just to make her smile, Clemens said.

Nathan would run to the door clamoring for his father when he came home, looking forward to wrestling and playing trucks. The little boy doesn't yet understand what happened, said Chrissy's mother, Brenda Clemens.

"I don't think he realizes it," she said. "We showed him a picture of his daddy, and he started smiling and laughing."

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