The Court of Appeals of Indiana agreed with the Dubois County Circuit Court’s decision to admit and exclude evidence in the trial and subsequent conviction of Kyle D. Schneider for the murder of Chloie E. Lubbehusen.
Schneider was arrested on January 11, 2019, after police responded to Lubbehusen’s St. Anthony area home. There, they found Lubbehusen stabbed and bleeding in her home. She succumbed to her injuries after being transported to Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center.
Schneider was found hiding in a garage of a nearby home that morning as police searched the area for him.
Schneider was convicted to 85 years in prison for the murder of Lubbehusen in July of 2019. His sentence included 65 years for the murder and an additional 20 years for being found a habitual offender. The habitual offender designation is due to a previous case in which Schneider pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. He was set to serve that sentence of 6 years when the murder occurred and it was added to the 85 years bringing his total sentence to 91 years.
During the trial, Schneider, through his attorney Steven Ripstra, argued that three video interviews, as well as a handwritten note in which he stated he stabbed Lubbehusen, should not be admissible.
Judge Nathan Verkamp allowed the second video interview to be suppressed while allowing the first and third video interviews to remain as evidence as well as the note Schneider wrote.
Additionally, Schneider wanted a note that allegedly came from Lubbehusen to be admitted as evidence but was not allowed due to the court’s inability to verify its authenticity.
Schneider also appealed Judge Verkamp’s decision to not instruct the jury of a lesser offense of reckless homicide rather than the murder charge.
The Indiana Court of Appeals sided with Verkamps decisions in the trial and issued a 27-page outline of its decision on Tuesday, October 20.
Of the two videos of Schneider’s interviews with police that were admitted to the trial, he argued they should be inadmissible.
The first video was made soon after the incident occurred while Schneider was in the hospital. Schneider argued he was under the influence of methamphetamines, amphetamines and marijuana. During the interview, the court found that Schneider appeared to act coherently and the officers were able to ascertain his state of mind. Additionally, a toxicology report confirmed the presence of the substances but in amounts that would not have caused him to be unable to coherently answer the questions from investigators for the 30 minutes the interview lasted.
Schneider objected to the third video interview because the detective had told him it wouldn’t be video recorded. However, in the video, Schneider can be seen looking at the camera in the room as well as peering through the one-way glass. The court stated that Schneider was familiar with police procedures through his previous involvement and should have been aware of their methodologies and his statements were given voluntarily.
Schneider further argued that since he had asked for counsel in the second video interview — this video was suppressed at his trial, the third video interview should not have been considered voluntary.
The appellate court agreed with Schneider but also recognized that Schneider initiated the third interview when he requested to speak with the detective again.
“However, if the individual initiates ‘further communication, exchanges, or conversations’ with law enforcement, then the individual may be further interrogated without counsel present.'” the court stated in its decision.
Also during the third interview, Schneider wrote a confession on a piece of paper after being asked to give Lubbehusen’s family closure on what had happened. Schneider wrote “I stabbed her” but refused to give the confession to the detective. Subsequently, other officers and jailers were called to take the written confession from Schneider.
Schneider argued that the method the officers used to take the paper from him was inappropriate. However, the court found that since the confession itself was not induced by any threats, violence, or other improper influences and he wrote it voluntarily, they found nothing inappropriate on how officers retrieved it.
In regards to the note found at the scene, the court also agreed that it should not have been admitted as evidence. “We agree with the State that Schneider failed to authenticate the Note. Importantly, there was no testimony from a witness with knowledge that the Note was what it was claimed to be.”
Besides ruling the trial court had not erred in its decisions regarding these issues, the Indiana Court of Appeals pointed out that these supposed errors in the admission of this evidence were harmless in light of the preponderance of the evidence of Schneider’s guilt.
Finally, the Court of Appeals found that the instruction on the reckless homicide charge would have been inappropriate. “Reckless homicide occurs when the defendant ‘recklessly’ kills another human being. Ind. Code 35-42-1-5. Reckless conduct is an action taken in plain, conscious, and unjustifiable disregard of harm that might result. Inc. Code 35-41-2-2(c).”
The appellate court agreed with Judge Verkamp’s decision that Schneider knew his actions would likely kill Lubbehusen. They stated he should have had an awareness that stabbing the victim multiple times in the head and chest would lead to her death.
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Verkamp’s decisions in the trial.