CYNTHIANA, Ind. (WEHT) – Erick Schmitt was convicted in the 1998 shooting death of Charlie Simpson but was released after serving 14 years of a 75 year sentence. His release was partly due to the testimony of Simpson’s widow, Ina Simpson, who said she thought Schmitt was a changed man.
Charlie Simpson was killed at Moto Mart, a place where many got to know him while stopping in for their morning coffee. One of those people, a newspaper journalist, was later assigned to do a feature story about the man who shot Simpson to death.
“I go by there at least three or four times a week. And literally, I don’t pass the place without thinking to Charlie, and then therefore thinking of her, it just it just doesn’t happen,” Dave Pearce said.
Pearce has been a journalist for over 35 years. He covered Schmitt’s trial and, later, his release in 2012.
He sat down with Schmitt for an interview in prison just days before that release.
“To meet him and to engage with him at that point. Like I said, you know, it was just one of those things where you thought…how could that how can that be? You know, because, as you can see, by the picture, he’s a clean cut young man. While at that case, 20 something-year-old with what appeared to be a genuine smile and genuine handshake.”
“You know that he realized, obviously, if it wasn’t for her, this probably would not have happened,” he said.
Schmitt was released on Ina’s birthday, something she called the “best birthday ever.” She, too, sat down with Pearce for a five hour interview for his feature entitled, “Amazing Grace.”
“I remember when I put the caption on the top, ‘Amazing Grace,’ and I thought, you know, still, that’s the kind of sums that up, you know, if somebody is willing to forgive you for a heinous act such as that.”
Ina Simpson, now in her 80s, still lives in Poseyville. Pearce crediting her for her composure throughout Schmitt’s trial and the strength shown in her forgiveness.
“I wanted to show that there were people in the world who could forgive something like that. And and it was one of those feel good stories that at this point, you know. If they didn’t take advantage of the second chance, it’s sad, especially under the circumstances with a woman who would never see her husband again.”