SANTA ANA — Echoing the poetic style of an Anaheim Hills engineer who shot his wife to death and threatened to hunt down and kill 54 others, a Superior Court judge Friday used rhyme and meter to sentence David Lee Schoenecker to life in prison without parole.
"You won't kill in the night, nor kill in the day. All on your list can go on their merry way," Judge Robert Fitzgerald recited.
"You killed your sweet wife, who loved you so dear. For that you're being punished, let me make that fact clear."
The 50-year-old Schoenecker sat passively as the poem was read, and later told his attorney, "When I wrote my poem, I was sick. When the judge wrote his, he was not."
Schoenecker's lead attorney, Public Defender Ronald Y. Butler, called Fitzgerald's method of delivering the sentence "unusual."
Butler also said that Schoenecker was "unsettled" by the sentence, but that he had not been surprised by it.
Schoenecker has spent his time in the Orange County Jail reading, reflecting, writing "novel-type manuscripts" and teaching other inmates, Butler said.
At the sentencing, Fitzgerald first read a poem that Schoenecker had written while in jail about his 54 intended victims.
Schoenecker had written: "I'll come in the night, I'll come in the day. I've chosen for each their own special way. All on the list will go to their grave."
The poem concluded: "The sentence I've chosen to you may seem cold. You'll pay and you'll pay all the while you'll grow old. One day you will die, a funeral your warden will hold. For you will serve your entire natural life and not be paroled."
After court was adjourned, the judge said, "If they don't want a poetic sentence, they shouldn't have a poetic crime."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans said Fitzgerald issued "an appropriate sentence for the crime."
In August, a jury found Schoenecker guilty of murdering his 40-year-old wife, Gail Mae, as she slept in their Anaheim Hills home on May 6, 1989. The same jury later found that he was sane at the time.
The jury also found special circumstances--that the murder was committed while "lying in wait"--making Schoenecker eligible to be sentenced to life without parole.
Schoenecker had compiled a "hit list" of 54 people he intended to kill. Most lived in the Milwaukee area, where the Schoeneckers had lived most of their married life. None of them were harmed.
Schoenecker's signed confession, sent to the Orange County Register newspaper, led to the discovery of his wife's body. Investigators also found an envelope marked "The List" that included the names of the 54 intended victims.
The letter to the newspaper bore a Montana postmark, and Montana authorities captured Schoenecker several days after he mailed his confession.