Leo Fisher said he has endured a sense of loss in his personal life since he and his wife, Susan Duncan, were attacked and held hostage in their McLean, Va., home by a revenge-seeking lawyer in 2014.
“There’s just a rage, and I’ve never been a rageful person,” Fisher said Thursday in front of a jury in Fairfax County Circuit Court, pausing at times to fight back tears. “Like anyone else, I get angry from time to time, but there’s just a rage for me.”
Fisher’s testimony came before the jury sentenced the couple’s assailant, Andrew Schmuhl, to two life sentences plus 98 years in prison for the brutal home invasion. The same jury last week convicted Schmuhl, who held Fisher and his wife hostage, slashed their throats, and left them for dead.
Prosecutors said Schmuhl, 33, and his wife, fellow attorney Alecia Schmuhl, sought revenge against Fisher because he had fired Alecia Schmuhl from his Arlington, Va., law firm a couple of weeks earlier. Prosecutors also said the unemployed Andrew Schmuhl was having financial difficulties and wanted to extract money, gold or valuable information from Fisher.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Fisher spoke about the impact the attack has had on him and his wife.
He said Duncan, a normally private person, has become more reserved, and lost her desire to leave their home. Fisher said his wife often spends her days in her sewing room with her two pet cats, with no interest in seeing anyone. Duncan, who was in the courthouse but not the courtroom, often wakes in the middle of the night screaming from nightmares of strangers attempting to kill her, Fisher said.
“That’s her life now,” he said.
Fisher made it clear that he wanted Andrew and Alecia Schmuhl, who is set to stand trial in September, to face the full consequences for the attack.
“I just don’t want this guy and his wife — these two monsters — to ever do this to anyone else again,” he said. “These are human beings who did this to other human beings, and I don’t want anybody to have to go through this.”
Andrew Schmuhl’s father, Donald Schmuhl, urged the jury to be lenient with his son, who he said was a Cub Scout in their small Wisconsin town. He said the trial has placed a microscope over Andrew Schmuhl’s life that “strips” away the dignity Andrew gained in school accolades and as a military veteran.
“My son was brought up in a family where we help people,” Donald Schmuhl said, taking occasional sips of water as his voice began to break.
Andrew Schmuhl was a former Army judge advocate and military magistrate. He left the military in 2012 after suffering a back injury two years earlier.
The defense had conceded that Schmuhl carried out the attack but said he was so intoxicated by painkillers and other drugs prescribed for the back injury that he could not judge right from wrong. Attorneys said Alecia Schmuhl may have given him an extra dose of fentanyl, a powerful opiate, to purposely cloud his judgment.
Prosecutors said the Schmuhls assembled an “abduction kit” in the days after Alecia Schmuhl’s firing, bought a Taser and got temporary cellphones that are hard to trace.
Then, on a quiet Sunday night in November 2014, the Schmuhls drove to Fisher and Duncan’s home. Alecia Schmuhl remained outside and Andrew Schmuhl rang the doorbell and then forced his way inside, prosecutors said.
Andrew Schmuhl used the Taser on Fisher, bound him with zip ties and then subdued Duncan. The incident was as bizarre as it was frightening. Schmuhl claimed he was from the “Virginia SEC,” flashed a novelty badge and made nonsensical claims. At one point, he queried Fisher about his role in a supposed murder-for-hire plot involving a Mexican drug cartel.
Eventually, Schmuhl asked Fisher where he kept cash or gold bars. Fisher offered to take Schmuhl to a bank to get money. Schmuhl then leapt on Fisher, put a pillow over his face and slashed his throat with a knife.
Duncan burst into the room and Schmuhl opened fire on her. The bullet grazed her head before lodging in the ceiling. Schmuhl began stabbing her and also cut her neck, until she played dead.
Duncan eventually hit a panic alarm, sending Schmuhl fleeing from the home. Police stopped both Schmuhls about 30 minutes later, finding Andrew Schmuhl wearing nothing but a diaper in the passenger seat of a car. At trial, Schmuhl testified that he remembered nothing of the attack.
Fairfax County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Casey Lingan told the jury that Andrew Schmuhl had shown no mercy toward his victims and the jury need not show him leniency.
“He literally had all the opportunity in life to make something of himself. He has no excuse,” Lingan said.
A judge set the final sentencing hearing for Aug. 26. The judge can accept the jury’s sentence or decrease it but cannot increase it.