Schmitz pleads to manslaughter

Jason Ferguson

The man arrested for the murder of Meshell Will has entered an alford plea to second degree manslaughter.
Richard Melvin Schmitz, 55, has been in custody since he was arrested at his home outside Hill City in July 2021. He was charged with second degree murder.
Schmitz was set to go to trial starting today, but according to the Pennington County Clerk of Courts entered his plea late yesterday afternoon. An alford plea is a type of guilty plea in which the defendant does not admit to committing the crime but agrees that the prosecution has enough evidence to obtain a conviction. This type of plea allows the defendant to plead guilty but maintain their innocence in the eyes of the law.
Second degree manslaughter is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
It was Aug. 24, 2013 when Will was last heard from.
She texted her late sister Amanda Dillon, saying she was headed to Keystone and would talk to her later. Her body was found a week later near mile post 54 by a tourist snapping photographs in the wooded area between the higher and lower part of the road near one of the bridges.
When Will’s body was found Aug. 31 of that year, it was badly decomposed. She was wearing a T-shirt and capri-style sweat pants. Her identification was confirmed through fingerprints. She had been reported missing four days earlier, Aug. 27, by her coworkers at the former Wrangler Restaurant, located where Custer State Farm now sits.
Dillon said at the time she wasn’t exactly sure how her sister ended up in her final resting place, but knew she didn’t get there herself. She said her sister did not have a driver’s license, did not have a car and hadn’t driven in eight years.
Schmitz, Will’s boyfriend at the time according to past reports, was the last person seen with Will when they both checked into the Brookside Motel in Keystone. It was said in a past story the room was in Schmitz’s name and he turned in the room key the next day. It was reported he last time someone talked to Will was around 10:30 or 11 p.m. Aug. 24, when the hotel manager talked to her.
While in the past law enforcement would only say Schmitz was a person of interest, the eventually arrested him for murder.
The trial was scheduled to run through Feb. 9 and was to be prosecuted by Roxanne Hammond of the Pennington County State’s Attorney Office in Rapid City.
Now, Schmitz is set for sentencing March 8 at 11 a.m. at the Pennington County Courthouse in Rapid City.

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