After Alecia Schmuhl was fired from a prominent Virginia law firm in 2014, prosecutors said the lawyer and her husband contemplated filing a lawsuit before settling on a darker plan: taking the firm’s partner and his wife hostage in their home in McLean.
The plot unspooled on Nov. 9, 2014, when Andrew Schmuhl barged into the couple’s home wearing a fedora and flashing a novelty badge. He bound the pair and began a rambling interrogation that prosecutors said appeared to be directed by Alecia Schmuhl, who remained outside.
Andrew Schmuhl eventually slit Leo Fisher’s throat and stabbed Susan Duncan, leaving them for dead. Prosecutors said that police caught up to the Schmuhls a short time later on the Capital Beltway and that Alecia Schmuhl attempted to run the officers off the road before she and her husband were stopped.
Andrew Schmuhl, also a lawyer, was found wearing nothing but an adult diaper.
Alecia Schmuhl, 32, of Springfield, Va., sobbed quietly Monday in a Fairfax County courtroom, answering yes five times as a judge asked whether she was guilty on each of five charges related to the scheme.
The plea agreement with prosecutors calls for a prison sentence of 10 to 45 years, less than the two life terms plus 98 years that Andrew Schmuhl received last month after a nearly five-week trial in June.
Casey Lingan, chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County, said the plea deal would spare Fisher and Duncan, who have physical and psychological scars from their ordeal, the pain of having to testify again.
“Both Alecia and Andrew Schmuhl are deeply culpable,” Lingan said after the plea hearing. “They brought that terror on November 9.”
During the hearing, Alecia Schmuhl’s attorneys said they would save the explanation of their client’s actions until the sentencing hearing Jan. 18 and 19. They declined to comment afterward.
Lingan spent much of his time in court detailing the painstaking preparations that went into the attack, which generated news across the country, and the Schmuhls’ attempts to cover their tracks.
The Schmuhls assembled an “abduction kit” that included rope, plastic gloves and a knife; purchased disposable phones that are difficult to trace; and paid cash for a Taser. Alecia Schmuhl acquired adult diapers that her husband could wear during the three-hour abduction.
Prosecutors said the couple drove to Duncan and Fisher’s home on a quiet Sunday night. Andrew Schmuhl knocked on the door and then forced his way in, posing as a law enforcement officer from the “Virginia SEC.”
Andrew Schmuhl used the Taser on Fisher, who crumpled to the floor, and then bound him with flexible restraints. Duncan was bound by the hands and feet as well after she came to investigate the commotion.
Andrew Schmuhl told them that a cartel had placed a hit on Fisher, who is the managing partner at the Arlington law firm Bean Kinney & Korman and who had fired Alecia Schmuhl for poor performance two weeks earlier.
Duncan and Fisher were forced onto the bed in their bedroom, where they were interrogated over the next three hours. At one point, Andrew Schmuhl took them to search Fisher’s work email before they returned to the bed.
As Andrew Schmuhl held the couple hostage, he communicated with someone he called his “boss” and “partner” via cellphone, Lingan said. Lingan said it appeared that person was Alecia Schmuhl.
“It was as if the intruder came back with a script of questions,” Lingan said in court.
The abduction ended with Andrew Schmuhl questioning Fisher separately about where he had money or “stacks of gold,” said Lingan, who noted that Andrew Schmuhl had learned just before the attack that he owed about $18,000 in back alimony.
Suddenly, Andrew Schmuhl placed a pillow over Fisher’s head and slit his throat, Lingan said. Fisher managed to call out to Duncan, who then charged into the room, Lingan said. Andrew Schmuhl opened fire on Duncan with a handgun, and the bullet grazed her head. He then stabbed her in the back and neck until she pretended to be dead.
Duncan eventually was able to trip a fire alarm, sending Schmuhl fleeing from the house. Fisher, who Lingan said lost 50 percent of the blood in his body, identified the attacker when police arrived and was rushed to the hospital along with his wife.
The couple testified forcefully at Andrew Schmuhl’s trial and sentencing, saying the attack had taken a heavy toll on them. After the hearing Monday, they walked through the courthouse arm in arm.