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Murder-For-Hire: Defense calls for prosecution to testify in trial of man accused in 2004 plot of Virginia Beach mother, son

Richard Stoner is accused of killing Lois Schmidt and her seven-year-old son, Jonathan Vetrano, and then setting their home on fire almost two decades ago.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Richard Stoner appeared before a judge in Virginia Beach Circuit Court Wednesday morning. Stoner pleaded guilty in 2019 to the murders of Lois Schmidt and her seven-year-old son, Jonathan Vetrano. 

Stoner told the court he was hired by Schmidt's ex-husband, Christopher Schmidt, to kill her, as the former couple battled over custody of their one-year-old daughter at the time.

However, in 2021, he retracted his guilty plea in the wake of Virginia's abolishment of the death penalty.

RELATED: Charges withdrawn against man accused of arranging murder of wife in Virginia Beach case

This recent change in the legal process led to Wednesday's hearing.

The defense in Stoner's case filed a rare motion, asking the judge to recuse Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle and Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Powers from the case. 

Defense Attorney, Matt Morris, motioned for this because he believes Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney Colin Stolle and Deputy Commonwealth Attorney, Paul Powers, are necessary witnesses for a motion to suppress Stoner’s statement. 

Morris stated the prosecution had, "discussions with Indiana detectives," who arrested Stoner in 2018 and interviewed him. 

Credit: WVEC

Powers argued that the Commonwealth’s discussions with detectives are not discoverable and do not have to be turned over to defense. He added that this type of evidence is not substantial to the case, and it would be inappropriate to testify in court.

A spokesperson for the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office clarified the argument further, saying,

 "The Commonwealth’s position is that there are other witnesses to the video recorded interview, the actual video/audio itself, and other witnesses available to defense who can provide the evidence defense seeks to obtain through Mr. Stolle or Mr. Powers."

13News Now spoke with the father of Lois Schmidt, who sat in the court hearing Wednesday. He says he's waiting for justice in this court case, but could not comment further out of respect for the investigation. 

The judge gave attorneys more time to discuss what evidence they want brought forth in this case. The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office says if the judge allows the prosecutor to testify as evidence and thus, must recuse the original prosecution from the trial, the office would have to find an outside source to serve as the prosecution in this case. 

Stoner remains behind bars on several charges, including two counts of first-degree murder and capital murder. The next hearing is scheduled for January 19th. 

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