Both defendants in Longmont postal shooting set for trial

UniqueThis 16 Jan 14

Jan. 14—Both suspects charged with first-degree murder in the October shooting of a Longmont postal worker are headed to trial after a judge found probable cause for the case to move forward and one of the defendants elected to immediately enter a not guilty plea.

Devan Schreiner, 26, and Andrew James Ritchie, 34, are now set for a three-week trial starting June 6 in the death of Jason Schaefer, 33.

Schreiner and Ritchie on Thursday had a evidentiary hearing Thursday to determine whether there was enough evidence to move the case forward and continue to hold both defendants without bond.

After testimony from three witnesses, Boulder District Judge Thomas Mulvahill Thursday afternoon ruled there was enough evidence to do both.

The next step would typically be for attorneys to set an arraignment date several weeks down the line, at which time the defendants could either enter into a plea agreement or enter not guilty pleas and be set for trial.

But instead, Ritchie's attorneys, Mary Claire Mulligan and Beth Kelley, told Mulvahill immediately following the ruling that Ritchie wanted to enter a not guilty plea and have the case set for trial.

Because the District Attorney's Office is trying both Ritchie and Schreiner in the same trial, Mulvahill said this would also mean a not guilty plea for Schreiner as well.

But Schreiner's attorney, Jennifer Engelmann, who had just asked Mulvahill for more than six weeks for an arraignment date, told Mulvahill she could not advise her client or be effective on such a short turnaround.

Earlier in the hearing, Engelmann told Mulvahill there was so much evidence in the case the public defender's office had to get a separate server to store the terabytes of files.

Engelmann, who said she would also be moving to separate the two defendants' cases, moved to withdraw from the case when it was set for trial, Mulvahill denied the request. When a visibly frustrated Engelmann then tried to make a verbal record, Mulvahill told her instead to file a written motion.

A motions hearing on the case is also set for April 7.

Schreiner is accused of shooting and killing Schaefer, her ex-boyfriend and the father of her child, while Schaefer was delivering mail in southwest Longmont on Oct. 13.

The lead investigator on the case, Longmont police Detective Joshua Burke, said Schaefer was shot three times next to his postal delivery van just after 12:30 p.m. while next to a cluster of mailboxes on Heatherhill Street just west of Renaissance Drive.

Burke said immediately upon arriving on the scene, two members of the Longmont post office asked police, "did the baby mama do it," referring to Schreiner.

Burke said Schaefer and Schreiner had a child shortly after they started dating, and had been dating on-and-off and getting into custody disputes for most of the six years since the child was born.

Just two days before the shooting, Schaefer had filed a request to modify parenting time, and Burke said witnesses said Schreiner felt "there was a fear that (the child) would be taken away from her."

"The custody situation was the initial factor that initially brought Schreiner into view (as a suspect)," Burke said. "It was fairly well known that Jason (Schaefer) had recently filed a motion for parenting time that the defendant had recently been served with."

In addition, Burke said Schreiner appeared upset that Schaefer had recently started dating Schreiner's 19-year-old sister.

Meanwhile, Burke said Schreiner was in a relationship with Ritchie, who is married. Burke said witnesses described the relationship as "toxic," and said Ritchie would make disparaging remarks about Schaefer and was upset whenever Schreiner and Schaefer had to spend time together as a result of their child.

Burke said Schaefer reportedly told a witness that Schreiner said Ritchie had a gun and could shoot Schaefer.

The shooting

The morning of the shooting, Burke said cell phone data shows Schreiner and Ritchie were both at her Fort Collins apartment before they drove to Ritchie's home in Loveland.

At that point it appears Ritchie then took Schreiner to the Loveland post office, and Schreiner began her route as a Loveland postal carrier while Ritchie drove into Longmont and began following Schaefer on his route.

Burke said a ride share vehicle used by the Englewood prison where Ritchie worked as a guard is seen on camera several times following Schaefer's postal van, and cell phone data and GPS data from Schaefer's postal scanner also appear to be in the same location for most of the morning.

Burke said Ritchie then appears to leave the Longmont area before the shooting and is seen eating lunch with friends at a Hooters in Loveland.

Meanwhile, at about 11 a.m. Burke said both Schreiner's own postal scanner and cellphone go to Ritchie's home and remain stationary until about 1 p.m., with no outgoing transmissions from the cell.

Just before the shooting, Burke said surveillance cameras then spot Schreiner's SUV — identifiable by a missing hubcap on its passenger side — driving into the neighborhood of the shooting, ultimately parking on Renaissance Drive south of the shooting scene.

Security cameras pick up a person walking from the area of the SUV north toward Schaefer. Another security camera picks up the person approaching Schaefer's van, picks up the sound of gunshots, and then shows the person running from the area.

Security cameras then capture the person running south before Schreiner's SUV is again seen, this time leaving the area.

The suspect in the videos was originally described as a man in a dark hoodie with a blue mask. But Burke said a photo later recovered from Ritchie's phone depicts a woman in a similar outfit.

While the woman's face is covered by a mask, Burke said the photo was taken from Schreiner's bathroom, and the nail polish coloring on the person in the photo matched Schreiner, who could be seen in subsequent jail footage having multiple shades of blue on her different fingers similar to that of the woman in the photo.

In an interview on Oct. 13 with his wife present, Ritchie initially denied having an affair with Schreiner and knowing about the shooting.

But when confronted with the photo of the hooded woman on his phone in a second interview on Oct. 19, Burke said Ritchie "immediately sat back in his chair, gave a big sigh, and said he would tell us what happened."

Burke testified that Ritche said Schreiner that day said "she had everything she needed" and that "today was the day."

"(Ritchie) did state that he knew that was a reference to killing Jason," Burke said.

'Evidence is all circumstantial'

Following the evidentiary part of the hearing, both Ritchie's and Schreiner's attorneys said prosecutors had not met the burden of proof needed to hold the defendants without bond.

Schreiner's attorneys pointed out her cellphone and postal scanner never left Loveland during the shooting window, and also noted that none of the security cameras could positively identify Schreiner as either the suspect fleeing the scene or the driver of the SUV.

Engelmann also pointed out the gun used in the shooting, believed to be a 9 mm handgun, was never recovered and that Schreiner had no history of weapons or access to a weapon.

Burke, during cross-examination, also confirmed Engelmann's assertion that it appears Schaefer had been trying to resume his relationship with Schreiner as recently as 2021.

As for Ritchie, his attorneys noted that he was definitely not the shooter, as video puts him in the Hooters at the time. As for the idea that he was casing the route for Schreiner by following Schaefer, Ritchie claimed he was just trying to stop Schreiner from doing something to Schaefer.

"The evidence is all circumstantial with regards to Mr. Ritchie being involved in any way in this crime," Mulligan said.

As for his initial lies to police about his whereabouts and relationship to Schreiner, Mulligan said Ritchie was simply trying to hide the affair from his wife.

"It does not establish complicity to first-degree murder," Mulligan said.

But Mulvahill said based on the evidence, he felt there was both enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial and for both defendants to remain in custody without bond until that time.

Before the hearing, the courtroom was packed with supporters on both sides. But after expressing concerns about witnesses hearing testimony, Mulvahill issued a sequestration order barring all potential witnesses from sitting in on the evidentiary portion of the hearing or monitoring the proceedings online.

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