Fisher told the terrifying story of Nov. 9, 2014, in calm detail, corroborating the testimony his wife, Susan Duncan, gave Thursday in the abduction and aggravated malicious wounding trial of Andrew Schmuhl in Fairfax County Circuit Court. Schmuhl’s wife, Alecia Schmuhl, had been fired by Fisher from their Arlington law firm two weeks earlier. Prosecutors allege Alecia Schmuhl waited outside by the car while her husband tied up both Fisher and Duncan, questioned them for more than three hours, then slashed Fisher’s throat, stabbed him in the head and shoulders, fired a gunshot that grazed Duncan’s head and repeatedly stabbed her. Alecia Schmuhl is set to be tried separately in September, which would force Fisher and Duncan to recount the horrific episode again.
Fisher said the man, wearing a wide hat pulled down low, walked him and his wife to their bedroom. At first, “I couldn’t figure out who this was,” Fisher said. The man had said something about being from “the Virginia SEC.” Then, when he and his wife reached the bedroom and sat on the bed, “I realized it was Andrew Schmuhl.”
He had met Schmuhl five months earlier, after he had submitted a refinancing loan application and listed Fisher’s firm, Bean, Kinney & Korman, as an employer. He had only done brief contract work there. Fisher said he called in Alecia Schmuhl, whom he’d hired as an associate in 2013, to talk about the seemingly fraudulent application in June 2014, and Andrew Schmuhl accompanied her. “Andrew just started very aggressively,” Fisher recalled. “He’s leaning across my desk and he’s getting very red-faced.” Fisher said he asked Andrew Schmuhl to leave “four or five times,” and finally when his wife told him to go, he did.
So Fisher had seen Schmuhl up close. And he said he would see him again up close for about three hours, while he and his wife were tied at the wrists and ankles with plastic zip ties. He recounted being ordered into his home office to go through his work email account, as his assailant claimed that Fisher had sent an email seeking to “put a hit on somebody for $370,000” from a Mexican drug cartel called the Knights Templar. The assailant also asked why Fisher had recently fired one of his associates, and claimed that another associate was having an affair with a client. Fisher said he was baffled by the whole thing.
Fisher said the man made and received phone calls on a cellphone, but always stepped out of the room to speak. At one point, Fisher said the man told him, twice, “If you don’t cooperate, I can take you to my office and I can hold you for three days without notifying any other authorities.” The man also asked where the stacks of money were, and whether Fisher kept any gold, but Fisher had neither.
Back sitting on his bed, with his wife in the bathroom, Fisher said he thought maybe the man just wanted money, and offered to go to the bank. “I was just sitting there like this,” Fisher testified from the witness stand. “My heart was pounding. I said to him, ‘I may be having a heart attack.’ ” (Fisher had suffered a heart attack the previous year.) “Next thing I know he knocks me over backwards, puts the pillow over me and he cuts my throat and stabs me.” He said he was stabbed in the left side of the head and in the left shoulder.
Fisher yelled out, “Muffy, he’s murdering me,” using a nickname for his wife, but he said the pillow may have muffled that. He said the man mocked him and said, “What is this, the Muppets?”
His wife burst into the room. “He brought up a gun and shot her,” Fisher recalled. “And I saw her hair go boom, and I thought he killed her. And she fell.”
Duncan testified that the shot cut across her scalp and left a scar but did not penetrate her skull. She said she climbed on the bed and tried to reach the phone, but that the invader jumped on her back and repeatedly stabbed her until she played dead. She eventually pressed a panic alarm on the home security system and the couple called 911 twice, with Fisher pressing a pair of shorts to his neck to stanch the bleeding. He said his neck was slashed from one side to the other and he showed the jury a long scar.
Fisher was able to walk and saw an officer moving to the front door, who then put his own hand on Fisher’s throat to stop the bleeding. When a second officer pulled up, Fisher testified, “I said, ‘I know who did this.’ He said ‘Who?’ And I said, ‘Andrew Schmuhl,’ and I spelled it out.” The officer didn’t have a pen, but another officer did, and Fisher repeated the information about the suspect. Fisher then gave them the access code to his cellphone so they could find information about the Schmuhls.
Police believe the couple fled the McLean home together. They were stopped in Springfield about 30 minutes later, and Andrew Schmuhl was found in the passenger seat wearing only a diaper.
Both Fisher and Duncan were hospitalized and survived their wounds. Neither watched the other testify. Fisher argued passionately in a pretrial hearing against allowing the Schmuhls to have separate trials. But Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows, who initially had joined the two trials, severed them after the defense attorneys argued that their respective defense theories would involve pointing blame at the other spouse.
Andrew Schmuhl’s lawyers have said they intend to pursue a defense of involuntary intoxication, contending the 14 prescribed medications he was taking for a back injury made him unaware of what he was doing. He is also a lawyer and former Army judge advocate and military magistrate. Bellows has not ruled yet on whether he will allow a psychiatrist from the University of Virginia to testify on Schmuhl’s behalf. Alecia Schmuhl’s defenders have said they intend to argue that she was being manipulated by her husband.
The prosecution’s case is expected to last for at least the rest of this week. The defense is expected to start after Memorial Day.