BARTOW — Jeremy Lynn Scott hung his head and closed his eyes as he testified Monday morning, avoiding eye contact with the crowded courtroom as he confessed to murdering Michelle Saum Schofield on a rainy February night in 1987.
But she isn't the only one Scott admitted killing.
In February, he wrote a letter to the State Attorney's Office confessing to "all 1987 to 1988 murders" in the state of Florida. And after two hours on the stand Monday, choking back tears as assistant state attorney Victoria Avalon pointed out discrepancy after discrepancy in his stories, Scott took it back.
"No, no I didn't do that," he said, as Avalon demanded he open his eyes, turn his face and look at a photo of Schofield's body taken at the crime scene.
The about-face dealt a blow to an effort by Schofield's husband, 51-year-old Leo Schofield, to get a new trial in the case. A jury convicted Leo Schofield of first-degree murder in the death of his 18-year-old wife and he was sentenced to life in prison in 1989.
A hearing in his bid for a new trial, where the defense was expected to present new evidence suggesting another killer, opened today in Bartow.
But as he took the stand, Scott didn't help.
He said he couldn't remember if the victim had a purse, or if she wore a skirt or pants that night.
He testified under oath that he had lived with the guilt of the murder for 38 years, but it's only been 30. He shifted nervously as Avalon recited portions of his testimony from 2005 and 2010, when Scott repeatedly denied he was responsible for killing Michelle Schofield.
The fingerprints discovered in her car, after the advent of new forensic technology in 2005, were there because he had found it abandoned on the side of the road and stole two speakers from the back, he said under questioning.
The tears came again when Avalon asked if he had lied to his grandmother abut this — when he called her from prison and told her that the only reason his fingerprints could have been in the car was that it was one of many he had broken into off Interstate 4.
"No. No, I don't want to answer that question," Scott responded at first, before adding, "No, I didn't lie to my grandma."
"Why are you bashing me?" he asked. "I just want to go back to my cell."
Leo Schofield sat stone faced as Scott took back the story he had just delivered, with eyes open and staring straight ahead, only moments earlier.
In that testimony, Scott said he had approached Michelle Schofield while she talked on a pay phone outside a Texaco gas station near Lakeland, asked her for a ride to a nearby mobile home park, and instead directed her to a "makeout lake" where he stabbed her 26 times and left her body in a canal.
Scott has been imprisoned in a mental health facility and suffers from multiple psychiatric disorders, Avalon said. When he wrote the letters admitting to murders, he was off his medication, he said.
Scott was never offered any deal for confessing to Schofield killing, he said. He is already serving two life sentences, one for a robbery and another for killing a man in 1989 by strangling him and bashing in his head with a grape juice bottle.
He said he had hoped that confessing to more murders would get him on death row.
He was dismissed back to county jail as the court convened for lunch.
"I'm going to be in a cold cell," he said.