Man Takes Plea Deal After Death Of Girlfriend

A South Dakota tourist found the disintegrating body of a 38-year-old woman in the Black Hills more than a decade ago. The man charged with her murder, her boyfriend, accepted a plea deal the day before his trial was to begin.

Meshell Will went missing in August 2013. Her body was found after four days of searching. Nearly eight years after her disappearance, in 2021, 55-year-old Richard Schmitz was arrested and is currently facing accusations of second-degree murder.

On Tuesday, Schmitz filed an Alford plea. By entering this plea, he admits that the state has presented enough evidence to support a conviction for second-degree manslaughter, a felony punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and ten years in jail.

Schmitz took this plea deal even though he insisted he was innocent.

The state’s decision to drop the second-degree murder charge—which generally carries a mandatory life sentence—is a component of the deal. The act of killing another person while acting negligently or accidentally is known as second-degree manslaughter.

Roxanne Hammond, a deputy state’s attorney for Pennington County, stated that Schmitz was, at the very least, recklessly responsible for Will’s death.

According to the autopsy report from September 2013, the cause of death for Will was categorized as unknown. It took eight years of suspicions before Schmitz was ultimately apprehended.

Authorities have been tight-lipped about the details that ultimately led to Schmitz’s arrest. A case description suggesting an arrest warrant for him included a pathology report from 2021 that said the death wasn’t from natural causes, suicide, or an accident. The cause of death has been classified as either murder or undetermined.

The forensic pathologist concluded that homicide was the most likely cause of death after reviewing the investigator’s report. The fact that Will died not long after being seen alive with Schmitz and that her body was thrown over a slope within a few hours after she died led to this conclusion.

The state was going to include evidence on three of Schmitz’s prior relationships, in which three women claimed that Schmitz had been aggressive.

On March 8th, Judge Craig Pfeifle will decide Schmitz’s punishment.