An Annandale man who claimed that he spent nearly 16 hours alone inside his grandmother's house after finding her body there was convicted of first-degree murder yesterday in her death.
Fairfax County police arrested Clifford Miles Scheid on Feb. 27, two days after Lois Geraldine Hampton was found dead in the basement of her home in the 4500 block of Carrico Drive. An autopsy showed that Hampton, 75, had suffered severe blunt-force trauma to the head. Blood throughout the house led police to believe that Hampton was assaulted in the living room, dragged down the basement steps and possibly beaten one last time in the basement.
Because detectives found no signs of forced entry into the house, they focused on Scheid, who sometimes lived with Hampton, as a suspect. Homicide Detective Steve Shillingford testified during the three-day jury trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court that Scheid, 29, gave differing accounts of discovering his grandmother's body, initially saying that she appeared to have fallen down the stairs and that he found her moments before a neighbor came by.
Scheid later told the detective that he found the body about midnight after being awakened by thumping sounds in the house, Shillingford testified. "I froze. I panicked," the detective quoted Scheid as telling him. According to the detective, Scheid told him that after finding the body, he proceeded to smoke large amounts of marijuana.
After the neighbor stopped by late the next afternoon and was told that Hampton had died, police were called.
Shillingford testified that Scheid had asked him what would happen "if I did kill her and it was an accident" and that Scheid had inquired whether he would face prison or a mental institution.
Scheid's family said he is a diagnosed schizophrenic. But a state doctor found him competent to stand trial, and Scheid's attorney did not raise insanity as a defense.
Police found Hampton's blood on Scheid's clothing, but when Scheid took the witness stand he denied killing his grandmother.
"This evidence is all circumstantial," defense attorney Clinton R. Shaw Jr. said in closing arguments. "If he bludgeoned his grandmother to death, wouldn't there be more blood on his clothing?"
Shaw said there was no motive for Scheid to kill Hampton, and he assailed the police investigation, noting that no murder weapon had been found and contending that detectives did not consider the possibility that a burglar had committed the crime.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Todd F. Sanders said there was no evidence that anyone other than Scheid and Hampton was in Hampton's house. Sanders then recounted the physical evidence of Hampton's violent beating and being dragged to the basement.
"He leaves her down there to die. He went even further than that," Sanders said, alleging that Scheid later discovered his grandmother still alive and beat her a second time. "He wants to make sure she is dead," Sanders said. "And he did."
Scheid's mother and two aunts--Hampton's three daughters--watched the trial in obvious agony, torn between wanting justice for their mother and help for their son and nephew. "We've been from doctor to doctor," said Scheid's mother, Deborah Scheid. "We went to the county; they would put him on medication to combat the hallucinations. We tried to get him to stay on the medications. That was hard."
Deborah Scheid said her mother was the only one in the family who could control Clifford Scheid. "She was a short, frail little woman, but her will was bigger than anyone in this courtroom," Deborah Scheid said. "He loved her. He told her he loved her. That's why it's so hard for anybody to believe he did anything to her."
After finding Scheid guilty, jurors recommended that he be sentenced to 50 years in prison. Judge Robert W. Wooldridge Jr. will impose sentence Feb. 11.