Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Larissa Schuster

Schuster's trial begins


Dennis Peterson
Dennis Peterson
On Monday, October 22, 2007, the case of California vs. Larissa Schuster began in front of a jury of nine women and three men. In his opening statement, prosecutor Dennis Peterson detailed Larissa Schuster's plot and told the jury that Tim Schuster had been still breathing when he was dumped head-first into the barrel and submerged in acid. Peterson told the court that Larissa committed the murder for financial gain because she didn't want to share the family property in a divorce settlement.

And while the prosecution was forced to rely on circumstantial evidence, they were blessed with lots of it. Police found a fresh round imprint on the dusty floor of a shed on Larissa Schuster's property detectives believed this showed the barrel had been stored there before being moved to CCRL and then to the storage unit.

Also, Larissa's business had purchased an unusually large quantity of acid 12 gallons of hydrochloric acid and 4 gallons of sulfuric acid just a month before Tim's death. Larissa's lab employee Leslie Fichera was called to the stand to testify that CCRL typically used less than a bottle of acid per year. Fichera also noted that Larissa had become increasingly angry at Tim throughout the divorce, wishing he would "crawl away and somewhere and die" rather than fight for his 49% share of CCRL. Later, a Clovis police sergeant would recount that Schuster's computer showed evidence of Google searches for the phrases: "acid, digestion, tissues," "acid, digestion, animal tissues" and "sulfuric acid."

Other CCRL workers provided damaging testimony about the 55-gallon sealed drum, which was unlike the ones used at the lab. Joseph Boatwright recalled Larissa asking him if he thought a body could fit in the barrel. Boatwright said he assumed she was asking in jest.

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