Norwalk Reflector: Sheriff Sigsworth gets video footage from site of murder-suicide in Huron
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Sheriff Sigsworth gets video footage from site of murder-suicide in Huron

By Brandon Addeo • Jun 13, 2019 at 11:22 AM

HURON TWP. — Investigators gained access to surveillance video from the home where a suspected murder-suicide occurred last week.

Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said his detectives used the password of Heather Schmidt, 44, who was found dead in the basement of her Snowy Egret Drive home June 4, to view video from two cameras inside the home and three on its exterior.

Sigsworth did not comment on what the video showed, citing the ongoing investigation.

“(The video) is providing us some valuable insight as to what occurred at the time of the shooting,” he said.

 

The murder weapon

The sheriff’s office released new details on the .380 caliber Bersa handgun they believe Dakota Leeland, 16, used to shoot his mother, Schmidt, before turning the gun on himself.

Sigsworth said the weapon was originally purchased legally from a business in Reynoldsburg, near Columbus, by a man who law enforcement has not identified, in 2004.

The sheriff’s office determined Leeland took the weapon from a locked bedroom of another family member in the Snowy Egret Drive home and grabbed the gun from a locked case, Sigsworth said. It appeared Schmidt owned the weapon and kept it in storage in the bedroom. 

“It appears Dakota was somehow able to obtain the keys and enter into the bedroom and obtain the pistol,” he said.

Sigsworth also said his agency is investigating how the weapon changed hands over the years.

“(We) have no information that indicates there was any illegal transaction with firearm up until time came into Dakota’s possession,” he said. “We’ll continue to investigate the history of that firearm.”

Other weapons, including rifles and shotguns, were in the home, Sigsworth said. But, like the handgun, all the weapons were “under lock and key.”

He said no one else was in the home at the time of the shooting.

Detectives found five shell casings at the scene.

 

Autopsies

Autopsies have been completed on both Leeland and Schmidt by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner and the Lucas County Coroner, respectively.

Preliminary reports from the autopsies have not been released yet, but Sigsworth said people who worked on the autopsies provided him the following information:

• Schmidt had four gunshot wounds to the head.

• Leeland had one gunshot wound to the head, believed to be self-inflicted.

The full autopsy reports will likely take weeks to finish, due to toxicology testing, Sigsworth said.

 

Moving forward

Sigsworth said the youngest son of Schmidt, who discovered his mother’s body along with Leeland, who was still breathing, is with his father.

No charges are expected for anything relating to the shooting, Sigsworth said, but there are other “issues that need to be addressed.”

“It’s still a very active and ongoing investigation,” he said. “There’s a lot more we’d like to be able to learn.”

Anyone who has information pertinent to the investigation should call the sheriff’s office at 419-627-7553. People can remain anonymous.

 

Man posts video to Facebook

A one-time boyfriend of Heather Schmidt recently posted a video to Facebook taken from a surveillance camera inside her home showing the woman arguing with her son. 

“This is some of the behavior that Heather had to deal with on a daily basis,” Jon Morrow stated along with his video post of Schmidt and her son, which is undated.

The video shows Schmidt arguing with Dakota about whether he would be allowed to participate in the Huron High School wrestling program, and in another segment arguing with her about whether he should go to bed. 

In his post, Morrow said he was attempting to protect Heather Schmidt from being smeared, blaming the sheriff’s office, the courts and the Huron Schools for the disciplinary difficulties she was having with her son.

“Realize that the courts and police made it impossible to discipline this child. The Guardian Ad Litems played a part in this, too, and should be ashamed of themselves. Huron School was also complicit and helped to facilitate this bad behavior,” Morrow stated in his post. 

Schmidt had three sons and a difficult relationship with her ex-husband, authorities said. Morrow said Schmidt “suffered from PTSD from the constant abuse from her ex and her son” who he called “a murderer.”

“Dakota needed mental help and he was not able to get it because of Ohio's laws and the community that dismissed this as two disgruntled divorced parents and did not recognize it for as serious as it was,” Morrow wrote. 

He posted the video at Facebook, Morrow said, because Schmidt asked him to do so if anything ever happened to her.

“It was Heather's wish if she was ever murdered by her son that people knew she did not abuse her children and her ex helped to facilitate this type of behavior,” he said.

Morrow said he had many hours of recordings and phone conversations that Schmidt gave to him.

At one point in the video, Dakota angrily tells his mother he’s being ignored. 

“You’re not listening to me. I am trying and you are not. You don’t understand that. In your mind, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, he’s crazy’.”

Morrow spliced the video with subtitles, such as, “Fifteen minutes later the argument continues with Dakota being even more belligerent,” and “Dakota starts lying and making false allegations.”

Schmidt, at one point, says to her son he’s not being reasonable. 

“If you don’t get your way you throw a tantrum every night,” she tells him.

Morrow can be seen in some of the video standing in front of Dakota at Schmidt’s side.

In October 2016, Dakota called 9-1-1 and said Morrow had threatened him. The two argued, according to a deputy’s report, but Schmidt told sheriff’s deputies her son was falsely accusing Morrow and no charges were filed. Weeks later Morrow was charged with menacing, however, after deputies reviewed a flash drive that Dakota and his mother had given to the Huron police in which there was an audio recording of the argument. 

“During the recording, you can hear Jon call Dakota a ‘f---ing retard.’ Later in the audio recording, Jon states ‘I’ll beat your f---ing ass. Shut the f--- up you little piece of shit,’” according to a police report.

Morrow pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct in February 2017. 

 

Reaction

Several people who live near the Snowy Egret Drive home said they didn’t hear anything Tuesday — be it gunshots or police sirens — and didn’t know that a shooting had occurred until someone texted them about it shortly after 10 p.m.

When they looked outside, they saw police vehicles at Schmidt’s home.

“We said, ‘Oh my God, there was a murder in the neighborhood,’” a man, who did not want to be identified, said.

He and a woman, who also did not want to be identified, both said they were acquaintances with Schmidt and her family.

“We were shocked that they were labeling it as a murder-suicide,” the woman said.

But the woman added that, while shocked, she wasn’t surprised by the news. Both she and the man said they’ve seen police vehicles at the home at least a half dozen times.

“They’ve had issues for a long time,” the woman said. “We knew something was going to happen, but were totally shocked with this.”

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