It was more than an hour before noon on March 9 when Jonathan Schmitz faced down Scott Amedure at the front door of Amedure's white vinyl-sided trailer. His finger on the trigger of a 12-gauge shotgun, Schmitz fired once into Amedure's chest. The shot dropped Amedure to the floor and Schmitz fired again.

Moments before, according to a police reconstruction, an unarmed Schmitz had been speaking calmly with Amedure in the presence of Amedure's houseguest. He had arrived at the narrow mobile home 30 miles north of Detroit to inquire about an unsigned "sexually suggestive" note he had found on the front door of his apartment that morning. Schmitz asked Amedure if he was responsible for the calling card. Amedure answered yes, and Schmitz said he had left his car running and would be right back after turning it off.

When Schmitz approached the house again, this time armed, Amedure frantically began closing the door. Schmitz forced his way inside, firing into the chest of the man with whom he had appeared on a taping of the nationally syndicated "Jenny Jones" talk show only three days before. It was a brutal parody of a duel of honor. Amedure was armed only with a wicker chair he raised as a protective shield.

What makes this more than a routine murder case is this: If Amedure had not revealed a secret crush on Schmitz during the taping of "The Jenny Jones Show," say the lawyers and prosecutors involved in this case, he would not be dead and Schmitz would not be in jail. This, of course, has prompted a national debate over shock television. But what seems to have been lost is the story of two ordinary young Americans whose lives were brought together in the most bizarre way.

The unsigned note tied to his doorknob pushed Schmitz, 24, over the edge. But events had begun to spin out of control three days before at the "Jenny Jones" taping in Chicago on March 6. Schmitz, a waiter at a local restaurant called the Fox & Hounds, had received a cold call the previous week from a producer of the "Jenny Jones" show asking him if he would like to appear on a program dedicated to secret admirers. At that time, a spokesman for the show says, Schmitz was told the secret admirer could be either a woman or a man.

Schmitz was reluctant to agree to the appearance and told the producer he would have to think about it. According to Schmitz's attorney, Fred Gibson, Schmitz -- who has pleaded not guilty in the case -- "didn't know who had set it up, but in the back of his mind he thought maybe it was Donna and Scott." Donna Riley was Schmitz's neighbor. Scott Amedure was her friend. Trying to puzzle out who his "secret admirer" might be, Schmitz went so far as to drop in on Riley, who lived above him in a two-story garden-apartment complex, to ask if either had any big plans to be in Chicago that next Monday. The two assured him they were doing other things.

"As far as he's concerned {those} two people wouldn't be there," said Gibson.

So Schmitz spent several hundred dollars on new clothes and made the expenses-paid trip to Chicago on Sunday afternoon, hoping that his dream woman was waiting for him.

On Monday morning backstage at the Jones show, Schmitz waited in a soundproof room anticipating his national television debut. When he walked onstage he was in for a surprise because Riley, the woman who said she had other plans, was there. Then, said a police officer and a county prosecutor who have viewed an unaired six-minute segment of the videotape, an audio was played for Schmitz of comments Scott Amedure had made about sexual fantasies about him "in a hammock and under the car." While the tape was playing Amedure appeared onstage.

"What you are seeing on the tape is a 24-year-old man facing the studio audience and the camera with what I consider to be an ambush," said Oakland County prosecutor Richard Thompson, who is now getting a lot of heat for seeming to sympathize with Schmitz. "He is visibly upset. People are laughing. It's like a Roman circus where the audience gives a thumbs up or thumbs down to everything that is going on." In search of a "spectacle," as it is sometimes known in the talk-show business, significant coaching of participants occurred, says Gibson, citing a witness statement from someone else who appeared on the show. "People who were the secret admirers were encouraged to be explicit in their comments," Schmitz's attorney says.

Whatever embarrassment he felt, Schmitz, according to a man who was at the taping, remained calm and polite. He did insist he was "completely heterosexual." His polite demeanor remained after the show when travel plans were changed and arrangements were made for the three to take the same plane back from Chicago so Schmitz could drive the others back to Orion, which is more than an hour from the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Once near home he was enough of a sport to stop for drinks with them at a hangout called Brewski's. Soon thereafter, according to statements made to police by Riley and Schmitz, they went their separate ways.

Jonathan Schmitz is a lifelong resident of Michigan. He had never been in trouble with the law. He knew how to handle a gun from hunting trips with his father. Schmitz is a handsome man. He has dark tousled hair and sideburns and the kind of eyes high school girls write notes about.

According to his lawyer, Schmitz knew Scott Amedure was gay the first time they met last month, but there is no evidence he had any overt problems with Amedure's homosexuality. Some members of the local gay community have told news organizations that Schmitz frequented the local gay bar scene, but the Oakland County sheriff's office said it has no evidence that those allegations are true.

Schmitz, his family and friends have all refused to speak to the media about the case or about Schmitz's background. According to Gibson, however, Schmitz is not homophobic and hate was not a motivating factor in this crime.

"Whatever caused the demise of Mr. Amedure is a direct result of a swell of factors triggered by the events that occurred at the Jenny Jones' taping," said Gibson. Strikingly, the Oakland County prosecutor and sheriff's department -- who are charged with making the case against Schmitz -- agree with the attorney defending him.

"It's a sad situation," said Thompson, the prosecutor. "Because of this show we have one person dead and another person, who thought he was going to meet the girl of his dreams, is sitting in a prison cell facing a life sentence for murder."

This sympathy for Schmitz outrages the local gay community. "Scott Amedure was murdered because he was gay and that needs to not be lost on all this talk about talk shows," said Jan Petersen, who works at Affirmations, a local center for the gay community. "The prosecutor is sounding an awful lot like a defense attorney. People are much more afraid of what Dick Thompson is doing than the talk shows. I think it is unconscionable for him to set up the defense to be able to use homosexual panic as a defense."

The events that led up to the slaying of Amedure are laid out clearly in statements to the police from Amedure's houseguest and from Schmitz. The night before he killed Amedure, Schmitz stayed at the home of a female friend. He came back to his apartment about 10 a.m. to find a flashing yellow barrier light on the porch that Amedure had picked up from the airport on the way back to Orion Monday afternoon -- and the unsigned note. The note, which has not been made public, was open to interpretation. "You might read the note and take it at face value," explained Oakland County Sheriff's Lt. William Kucyk. "Schmitz read more into it."

Schmitz soon left the apartment and drove his 1981 station wagon to his bank, where he withdrew more than $300 in cash. He then drove a few miles north on Route M-24, the main road through town, stopping at Tom's Hardware store. He asked a clerk for a box of 12-gauge shotgun shells, paying cash for them.

Schmitz next pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall within easy walking distance of his apartment. He entered Gary's Gun Shop, which is lined with oversize Native American dream-catchers on one wall and rifles and shotguns on the other. He asked Nancy Morgan, who owns the shop with her husband, Gary, for a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, paid $249.99 plus tax, filled out the history card that asked for general background information and casually remarked that he was going hunting with his father. He then asked Morgan for the time, which was about 10:30 a.m., and told her he would be late for work.

Schmitz took the shotgun back to the parking lot of his apartment building and assembled and loaded it. By his own admission he sat in the parking lot "thinking" for several minutes. Then he pulled his car back around the winding drive and out the entrance to the main road, which is flanked by two churches. He drove past the sign for Brewski's, which reads, "A Fun Place to Meet." Just before the Pontiac Silverdome came into view, Schmitz pulled onto a side road and made his way down Blue Bird Hill Road, which wraps through the trailer park where Amedure lived. Scott Amedure, according to his neighbor Gayle Clinton, was a talk-show junkie.

"He watched all of them, but Oprah' was too mild for him," she told the Detroit News the day of the murder. "He really liked the shows that revealed the intimate details of people's private lives. He would call me up and say: You won't believe what they are talking about today.' "

Amedure was contacted by a producer at "The Jenny Jones Show" because a few days earlier he had responded to a call for people who wanted to reveal a secret crush on national television. His life up to that point at been filled with fodder for the talk-show circuit. According to police reports obtained by the Detroit News, Amedure had a history of heavy drug use and assaulting his male lovers, and he even disappeared for several months, prompting Clinton to file a missing persons report.

The call to the producer set in motion the events that ended his life, but could anyone have known that? One former employee of "The Jenny Jones Show" who maintains close ties to the program said the general mood there was one of sadness mixed with bewilderment.

What really set Schmitz off, said the former employee, "seems to be that another guy wanted him." He plays down the importance of the event happening on a television show -- after all, the show had not even been broadcast when the murder occurred. Ultimately, it was never aired.

Whatever the case, Jones herself took time out of a program last week to "set the record straight."

"As much as we all regret what happened," she said directly into the camera, "the fact is that this tragedy is about the actions of one individual. He was a guest on that show and he, like every other guest on that show, was told he'd be meeting a secret admirer and that guest could be a member of the same sex or the opposite sex."

Jones went on to thank her viewers for their support and then without missing a beat, the tape segued into the day's program: "Today, desperate women who want to get married," she said. "What they want are diamond rings. What they don't want are more excuses."

Attorney Gibson said his client was misled by unscrupulous people who cared only about getting a confrontational moment on tape. He insists Schmitz was led to believe a woman would be waiting for him onstage.

"As late as Sunday afternoon he was told that it was her,' " said Gibson.

Whatever the truth, it is clear that Schmitz had little idea how to handle the events at the taping. When Schmitz dialed 911 from a gas station to turn himself in, he started crying.

"Uh, ma'am, I just, uh, I think I just shot a man," he said. When the 911 operator asked him why, he replied in near hysterics, "Because he {expletived} me on national television."

By his own admission Fred Gibson doesn't like criminals and almost never represents them. General business law is his usual domain. But when he talks about Schmitz, his eyes tear.

"I have to believe what I am doing is right. I can hold my head high in this community and say Jonathan Tyler Schmitz is my client," said Gibson, who has a statue of John Wayne, six-shooter in hand, on his office windowsill. He says Schmitz was thrown into a situation to which he had no ability to respond.

"I think when it comes to heterosexual men who believe or know that a man they know is a homosexual has an interest, {they} fear that they might be the subject of affection and certainly shy away from that," he said. "Some to a greater degree than others." This case has gay activists in the area fearful and angry. They say all the finger-pointing at the talk shows has disguised the real reason this crime took place. The gay community in nearby Pontiac feels that talk about humiliation and embarrassment on national television is just smoke and mirrors for a law community that seems to sympathize with the rage that caused Schmitz to murder Amedure.

Thompson says he is prosecuting Schmitz to the full extent of the law, charging him with first-degree murder and felony possession of a firearm. Schmitz is being held without bond in the Oakland County jail in Pontiac.

"Explaining why a crime happens by no means absolves someone," said Thompson, who says he thinks the crime had nothing to do with homophobia, and at the same time says it was not unreasonable to expect something like this to happen -- an ambush for an ambush.

Not good enough, say gay activists who want Thompson to take a "moral role" in denouncing this murder as an anti-gay crime.

"Scott Amedure is still going to be dead after all this is over," said Jeffrey Montgomery, president of the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-area gay advocacy group. "The question is, will the man who did this for no other reason than that he was gay be exonerated?"

At the limestone county jail, where the slitlike windows are trimmed in a mint green, Jonathan Schmitz has nothing but time to contemplate the steps that took him to the front door of a small mobile home and made him pull the trigger twice. At Amedure's home the yellow police tape lies discarded out back. A handmade fountain -- a little homey touch -- is empty. Dried-out sunflowers guard the creation from their spot in a small rock garden. Now the windows are covered with makeshift curtains. On one side of the door the gay-pride flag blocks out the eyes of the curious. On another window someone has scrawled in felt-tip marker, "I love you Scott." CAPTION: Jonathan Schmitz, with his attorney, Fred Gibson, left, is charges with the murder of his "secret admirer" Scott Amedure, below. CAPTION: Jenny Jones.