Name: Lacey Aaron Schmidt
Victim: Alana Calahan, 14
Age at time of murder: 14
Crime date: January 31, 2011
Location: Columbia County
Crimes: Murder & theft
Weapon: 9 mm handgun
Murder method: Gunshot to the head
Convictions: Murder, possession of a firearm during a crime, & theft
Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP)
Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Macon State Prison
Schmidt entered his neighbor and friend Alana’s home and shot her in the head with a handgun he had stolen from her father.
From “The Prison Legal News” Atlanta: Of the 39 states that allow life without parole for juveniles, Pennsylvania has the most who came into the prison system for crimes they committed when they were teenagers. Georgia has sentenced far fewer teenagers to life without parole. Until recent years, state law allowed prosecutors to ask for life without parole only when the circumstances called for the death penalty, which they could not seek for juvenile defendants. Of the 31 Georgia juveniles sentenced to life without parole, one was 13 and two were 14 when they killed. Only one of the 31 is still a juvenile, according to Department of Corrections data. Lacey Aaron Schmidt, now 16, was sentenced in March. He was 14 when he shot classmate Alana Calahan in the head and hid her body in Columbia County woods. The girl’s parents called Schmidt a monster and a hateful beast. . . There must be consequences, said Bruce Holmes of Rex, whose 17-month-old great-grandson was murdered in 2009 by his teenage father. Brain development is “not an excuse,” Holmes said. Otherwise, “it would become open season for people to commit crimes knowing they won’t have to serve any big time for it. They aren’t thinking with a full deck here. You’re opening the door for a lot of stuff.”
Jurors Talk About Schmidt Guilty Verdict
Jurors in the Lacy Aaron Schmidt murder trial
Four days after the trial started, a verdict Thursday night for 15-year-old
Lacey Aaron Schmidt. He was convicted of killing 14-year-old Alana Calahan and found guilty on all counts. Schmidt showed no emotion as he learned of the verdict. It took the jury more than four hours to deliberate. They said they really didn’t listen to the opening and closing arguments, they wanted to base their verdict completely on the evidence that was presented. Lacy Aaron Schmidt sat in court Thursday watching and listening to the attorneys battle out his fate.
Coming to his defense: his attorney, Penelope Donkar. “Just because his emotions weren’t what you’d expect doesn’t mean he was a cold blooded murderer.”
For the prosecution, Assistant District Attorney, Natalie Pain. “He walks up to Alana Calahan and shoots her right in the back of the head.”
Nearly two hours of closing arguments from these attorneys. But that’s not what made the jury reach its “Guilty” verdict. The jurors we spoke with, like Derrek Blitch, say it was all about the evidence. “I can’t really worry about what his future is going to be because there is someone else who is not going to have a future at all.” They talked about what they found to be the most damning evidence against Schmidt. Richard Iannacone described it graphically. “Whenever he shot her and she was gasping for air and spitting up blood he didn’t try to save her, he dragged her like a piece of trash.” They also said that the defense started the case arguing that Schmidt snapped, but then changed their defense by trying to show that the gun went off by accident. But they say it wasn’t an easy decision. Some of the jurors said they changed their minds once deliberations started. Deborah Burton said it was hard convicting a 15-year-old. “It’s really tragic, but I think it’s Alana that’s….sorry…this was all very hard.” The Schmidt family left the court house first in defeat. Alana Calahan’s family left next. Both sides headed home, after a heartwrenching ordeal that started one year ago.
Lacy Aaron Scmidt was sentenced to life in prison.
The defense repeatedly told the jury that Schmidt was a kid and that’s why he acted so strangely after Alana Calahan was killed. The defense originally opened the trial saying this was a case of voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is when one person kills another
by sudden outburst, not by plan. However, Judge Michael Annis ruled that there was no evidence showing manslaughter. So, the defense closed the case, by telling the jury that this shooting was an accident. “If he was planning on something horrible, why would he have taken off his shoes?” public defender Penelope Donkar told the jury. Donkar argued that Schmidt was following the Calahan’s house rules, by taking his shoes off before entering the home…moments before Alana was killed. Donkar hit on why Schmidt lied to investigators. “He realized he killed a girl he loved and all he could think was to blame someone else…he’s a 14-year-old kid…Aaron is a kid and his statement shows just that,” Donkar said. Donkar also said, in her closing argument, that Schmidt was beaten up and robbed the week before Alana was killed and that his guardian never reported it. Donkar called that lack of action neglect. She also argued that Schmidt had been neglected his whole life and that’s why he loved the Calahan family so much…saying, that’s why Schmidt never would have intended to hurt them. “It makes absolutely no sense that he
would kill her,” she said. Donkar concluded her closing argument saying,
“There’s been no pre-meditation shown”.
Prosecutor Natalie Paine started her closing argument by picking up a picture of Alana Calahan and said, “We’re here because of this sweet face”. Paine then picked up the gun (unloaded) that Schmidt allegedly shot Alana Calahan with and pulled the trigger. She argued that a school bus driver saw Scmidt walking from his house towards the Calahan’s
home with a hood over his head and the gun in his pocket “loaded and ready to go.” Paine also argued that Schmidt knew when Alana’s sister Amanda would leave the Calahan home and knew that he had less than 4 minutes to murder Alana before Amanda came back. She also argued Alana told on Schmidt days before he killed her, getting him in trouble with Alana’s mother Betty, and that’s why Schmidt wanted to kill her. Paine argued that Schmidt was “obsessed” with the Calahan family. His Facebook account name read, Aaron Calahan, not Aaron Schmidt. Paine argued that he was jealous of the family that Alana had and that Alana threatened him getting closer to her family. Paine said, several times, that Schmidt has a “depraved and malignant heart”. She described how
Schmidt dragged Calahan’s body, while Alana was still alive. “She is grasping for breath and he does not care…the truth is that he killed her, poor pitiful Alana Calahan, she will never go to high school…her father will never walk her down the aisle,” Paine said. Paine closed with, “This man is guilty of every single charge”.
The evidence construed in favor of the verdicts showed the following. On January 31, 2011, fourteen-year-old Alana Calahan was fatally shot while in her home in Columbia County. Schmidt, who was then also fourteen years old, lived nearby on the same street and he and Alana were friends. The two were “boyfriend and girlfriend” for a brief time until Alana’s youth pastor advised her that she was too young for such a relationship. Nonetheless, Schmidt spent a lot of time with Alana and her family. About a week before Alana’s murder, Schmidt entered the Calahan house when no one in the family was home; Alana was the first to arrive home and noticed that the door to the house was unlocked. Alana’s mother asked Schmidt how he got into the house, and Schmidt responded that the door had been left unlocked. The mother did not believe him and angrily told him that he could not come to the house unless she or her husband was there. Schmidt was also forbidden to come over before 5:00 p. m. on week days. The family kept a shotgun and a handgun in the parents’ master bedroom, and the children were not allowed to enter the bedroom or touch the guns.
On the day of the murder, as Alana’s sister was waiting in the family pickup truck to transport Alana from the school bus drop off location to their house, Schmidt appeared and told the sister that he was not allowed to come over for the next two weeks. After the school bus driver dropped off Alana, the driver saw Schmidt walking nearby; Schmidt had his hands in his pockets and the hood from his jacket was pulled over his head. Immediately after the drop off, Alana was picked up by her sister and taken home. About twenty or thirty minutes later, the sister left the house to pick up their brother from the bus stop. At that time, Alana was at a computer, which was located beside the house’s sliding back door. During the approximately ten minutes the sister was gone, Schmidt entered the house, shot Alana in the back of the neck, and dragged her to the woods outside the house. Alana died from the gunshot wound to her neck.
The sister returned and saw Schmidt’s shoes inside the house, along with Alana’s shoes; it was common practice for family and friends to take their shoes off upon entering the house. The sister observed that the chair that Alana had been sitting in was knocked over and there was blood, later identified as Alana’s, all over the carpet. Schmidt came into the house through the front door and told the sister that someone had taken Alana and that he did not know what to do. Schmidt then went outside with Alana’s sister and brother, ostensibly to help in the search for Alana. Schmidt quickly said he spotted Alana, pointed in a certain direction, and led the siblings to Alana’s body. The sister did not believe that Schmidt could have seen the body from his initial vantage point. Schmidt approached Alana’s body, and tried to pull a stick out of her hair; he then “started freaking out saying, oh, my [G]od, now my prints are on her and they’re going to think I killed her.” Schmidt did not cry upon seeing the body. The sister unsuccessfully attempted to revive Alana, and called police.
The police arrived to find Alana’s sister and brother crying and screaming, but Schmidt displayed absolutely no emotion; indeed, Schmidt acted as if “there was [not] a care in the world.” During police interviews, Schmidt exhibited conduct which raised suspicion, including attempts to cry which appeared to be disingenuous. After telling the police at least five different stories about what transpired, Schmidt admitted to having taken Alana’s father’s handgun from the master bedroom, and allegedly accidentally shooting Alana with it as he stood behind her attempting to unload it. However, it was later determined that in the position of the handgun mechanism as described by Schmidt, 13 pounds of pressure would have to be applied to the trigger in order to fire the handgun. Investigators later searched Schmidt’s residence and found a gun box, ammunition, and an owner’s manual for the murder weapon. The police determined that it was not possible for Schmidt to have brought the gun box to his home during the brief interval in which Alana was shot, and that he would have had to obtain it beforehand. In Schmidt’s book bag, stashed in his bedroom closet, police found other items belonging to the Calahan family, including an iPod, RCA MP3 player, and a digital camera. Alana’s house keys were thought to be lost prior to her death, but were found several weeks later under mats on the floor of the Calahan family’s pickup, to which Schmidt had access.
A Columbia County teen sentenced to life without parole for murdering a 14-year-old neighbor was fairly tried and convicted, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled.
In an opinion released Monday, Sept. 7, the state’s highest court determined that not only the conviction but the sentence imposed on Lacy Aaron Schmidt was fair for the Jan. 31, 2011, slaying of Alana Calahan.
According to testimony during Schmidt’s February 2012 trial in Columbia County Superior Court, Alana’s family treated Schmidt like one of the family. Alana, an eighth-grade student at Harlem Middle School, and her younger brothers considered Schmidt as a brother.
But on the afternoon of Jan. 31, 2011, in an estimated 10-minute window of opportunity, Schmidt entered the Calahan home where Alana was alone working on her Facebook page.
Schmidt walked up close enough to shoot her in the back of the head with the 9 mm handgun that he had stolen from the Calahan home days earlier, according to trial testimony.
Schmidt dragged the girl out of the house and into the woods, and minutes later when Alana’s older sister and 9-year-old brother came home, Schmidt told them someone had taken Alana, a lie that didn’t hold up to questioning by the sheriff’s department.
Schmidt, who was 14 years old at the time of the killing, and his siblings were taken from his mother and placed with an abusive older sister, according to testimony. The Calahans were the only family he had ever had.
The prosecutor and Alana’s family asked Judge Michael N. Annis to impose a sentence of life without parole.
Annis could have sentenced Schmidt to life with the possibility of parole, but at the conclusion of a lengthy hearing, he imposed life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Schmidt is one of five teens in Georgia sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to a Sept. 1 Georgia Department of Correction’s report.
He and one other teen were the youngest sentenced to life without parole at 15. There are currently 1,131 inmates under the same sentence.