Sometimes I get asked about my job. What was the strangest thing I’ve covered or heard or seen? There are plenty. But one sticks out even to this day.
It happened in Sunbury!
On Feb. 22, 2007, a woman who was in a relationship with John Edmund Schneider reported she had been raped by him in a violent manner. Schneider was arrested and charged with kidnapping with bodily harm, rape, aggravated anal sodomy and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.
Schneider and the woman, who was 20 years his senior, met in 2006 and during the trial it was established that they had a relationship.
She lavished him with gifts and he did things around the house for her.
During the trial the woman testified that things started going downhill around January 2007 when Schneider became dark and often “heard voices in his head,” which told him to do vile and evil things to her.
The violence came to head on Feb. 22, 2007, when the woman said Schneider raped her against her will.
I can recall the entire trial. It was my first rape trial. There was testimony involving sex toys.
Evidence presented that made some in the courtroom blush. Schneider was tall, muscular and was well-spoken during his testimony. His attorney made sure he was well-dressed and Schneider had a way of speaking. I could tell some of the women jurors were falling under the spell of his charm.
After an hour and 20 minutes the jury found Schneider not guilty of the serious charges but guilty of lesser charges that resulted in a 10-year prison sentence.
Case closed, right?
Nope, for me this is where the rest of the story begins.
Schneider had always proclaimed his innocence of the rape charges.
“Your honor, I want to thank you for a fair trial,” Schneider said to Superior Court Judge Paul Rose after the verdict. “My name is the most important thing to me and I’ve saved that, so I want to thank you.”
In fact, the only reason I knew about the case was we received a letter from jail, from Schneider informing the news staff about the situation before the trial began. After covering the trial, Schneider reached out to me again to “thank me for telling his truth.”
In the 10 years that followed, I would receive several letters and drawings from him. He was and likely still is a talented artist. He wrote to me about his past and how
he longed to just be on the ocean. Schneider had worked on a shrimp boat before, and the reason he ended up in Sunbury was to restore an old sailboat he had purchased.
It was these letters that provided me with some insight to Schneider. His way of thinking, of being, his kindness, and also his mean streak and that “darker side” his victim alluded to. Just by looking at his writings I could tell when he was in a good mood or completely pissed off, and that’s before reading the letters. I got Christmas cards from Schneider, other greeting cards, too.
Some photos, more art work, more letters. I have them all in a binder — still.
One day I got a call.
YES! HE CALLED THE OFFICE!
He managed to sneak into his guard’s office while on cleaning duty and he called me up. We spoke, well mostly he spoke — about the case, how much he hated Jon Hope, the prosecutor, and thanking me for covering the story which cleared his name (in his mind that is what I did for him).
MORE THAN ONCE
He called me again when he learned Hope suffered a heart attack and died. Of course, he was happy.
AND ONE LAST TIME
In February of 2017, Schneider called my office again. He had served his 10 years and was out free. I was in a panic, as were most of the folks in the Justice Center, who posted his mug shot all around the court building, in case Schneider decided to pay a visit. He told me he had planned to use his bus ticket to move to Key West, but landed in Vero Beach instead and was staying there.
Since then, I heard from two different women, former girlfriends, who found me due to the online stories.
Both women mentioned his dark side. I’m not sure what they might have gone through.
Another woman called me a while ago. She said she was going to try and help him. I’m not sure how that went. He’s been booked twice, once for criminal trespass and again in Dec. 23, 2021, for disorderly conduct.
He is listed as homeless and still somewhere in Vero Beach. The story of the scandal is here: https://coastalcourier. com/news/tawdry-taleled- to-rape-allegation/
Patty Leon is senior editor of the Courier.