Man sentenced to 30 years for killing stepdaughter

Sunday, January 17, 2016
Ricky Lee Schweain

Ricky Lee Schweain was sentenced Friday to 30 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for the second-degree murder of his stepdaughter, the maximum sentence possible.

Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Lewis said sometimes a defendant's lack of a criminal record can be a determining factor in sentencing, but not in this case.

"Sometimes the act that was committed was so terrible, it requires a terrible punishment," Lewis said. "This is one of those times."

Schweain, 55, of Cape Girardeau pleaded guilty to the murder of his stepdaughter, Melissa Luttrell, 27, on Nov. 10.

In her closing statement, assistant prosecutor Angel Woodruff said Schweain took a loaded pistol off his hip March 26 he always carried and shot Luttrell in the heart while one of the children was in an adjacent room of the house in Gordonville.

"She will never have a chance to clean up her life," Woodruff said of Luttrell. "He lived his life as an adult, and he made his choices."

Luttrell's brother, Justin Streiler, and her mother, Kim Schweain, provided statements for the court Woodruff read aloud. Both brought up that Luttrell's 6-year-old middle child has experienced nightmares about her mother dying and asks in her sleep for her mother not to leave.

"My sister lost her life for no reason," Streiler said.

Kim Schweain said Luttrell's oldest child has had anger problems since the murder.

"Melissa was my only daughter. She was my joy and sometimes my sorrow," Kim Schweain said. "The only things I have are loneliness, sadness and sometimes hate."

After the sentence was announced, Streiler and Kim Schweain said they were satisfied with the result, although the family was more relieved to have the ordeal finished.

"We're glad my daughter got justice, finally," Kim Schweain said. "As far as forgiveness, I forgive him. I hate what he did, but I had to forgive him."

Ricky Schweain's father, Jerry Schweain Sr., and brother, Johnny Schweain, both spoke on his behalf. They said Ricky Schweain was being routinely threatened by Luttrell, causing him to quit his job, sell his truck, rarely leave the house and carry a gun at all times.

"'I have been treated better in jail locked up than I have in the past three or four years at home,'" Jerry Schweain said Ricky Schweain told him after he was arrested.

Jerry Schweain said he never heard a direct threat, but Johnny Schweain had heard from other relatives that Ricky Schweain was telling the truth. Both men said they had never known Ricky Schweain to be violent.

"I told him it wasn't good to live like that," Johnny Schweain said. "Everybody makes mistakes in life, but that doesn't mean they have to pay for them the rest of their life. Sometimes people make bad choices, but that doesn't mean they're bad people."

Woodruff asked Johnny Schweain whether that same sentiment would apply to Luttrell, and he said it would. He also said he never saw Luttrell be violent.

"The brief time he's been in here, he has torn down Melissa Luttrell to raise himself up in the court's eyes," Woodruff said of Ricky Schweain.

Public defender Jennifer Slone argued Ricky Schweain had no history of violence and had a reputation of being laid-back. Slone said he cooperated with police from the beginning, he refused depositions, hearings and a trial, and he felt remorse for his actions.

"Once he saw Melissa on the ground, he immediately turned the gun on himself and fired once, twice into his heart," Slone said.

Ricky Schweain expressed remorse himself in his final words before Lewis.

"I'm just very sorry for my actions," he said. "I guess it just got the best of me. I just want to say I'm very sorry to the family. I should have moved out a long time ago."

Johnny and Jerry Schweain thought the sentence was extreme.

"I just thought it was pretty severe," Johnny Schweain said.

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